Here's a secret that is known only to a select few, for centuries the Irish have had a sort of empire of our own. 

The main difference between our little version and the much bigger British one is is that we didn't slaughter over half the globe to achieve it. 

I know what you're thinking: show me proof of this empire you speak of. I understand your skepticism. When you're busy being invaded and colonized you don't have time to notice the outsized impact your remote little island is having on the world. You're far too busy with other things like revolts and evictions and trying not to starve. 

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But in the last few decades, after four centuries underwater, we have finally found the time to break the surface and have a look around. The damage, though extensive, has not been completely fatal. That's news. We have kept both our counsel and our nerve. That's news too. We are distinctive and distinct still. It's remarkable.

So what is the great lesson of the Irish? Well, we have a lot to say now on the subject of how to resist oppression and the entire world has been reading our well-written reports.

It turns out that people much prefer it if you entreat rather than enslave them. That fact alone has won us more friends around the globe than we ever thought.

The reason why we currently have a Taoiseach (Prime Minister) who looks like his pulse rate never hits higher than 60bpm is that restraint is the only possible answer to the endless saber-rattling of the DUP and the basket case politics of Brexit.

If your next-door neighbors have taken to assembling patriotism tests and daily circular firing squads you will look like a model of restraint and erudition simply by refusing to be drawn into their maelstrom. 

Besides we have already had our dark night of the soul, dozens of them actually, between famine and civil war and mass emigration, and if there's one thing we have learned it's that you're better off bound together than out on your own. 

So Boris and his supporters can drop their creaky portcullis and retreat to their gloomy castle and hope to evade history and all the bills that are due, but that's not how it works. The best that we can do now is leave them to it and insist they contain their own squabbles to themselves.

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Because another crucial thing we have learned is to resist fundamentalists and fundamentalism of every stripe. Call it our “fair play” doctrine, or “auld decency” if you want to go further back. We have a native suspicion of people who try to sell us the kind of castles in the air that are promised by the current crop of politicians.

We know the truth. Millennials can't afford to buy houses. They don't have job security. They don't have savings. Homeownership is a complete nonstarter for a whole generation of them in the endless gig economy in which they work and live in now. Climate change has set whole nations on fire. This is not the best of times, nor is it great, far from it.

How did we learn our bone-deep pragmatism? The hard way. Colonialism and starvation and economic collapse and enforced emigration didn't plan to do us any favors, quite the reverse. They hit us like a meteorite and scattered millions of us around the planet.

Events overtook one of the most anchored people in Europe, people uniquely committed to the home place and townland, and made reluctant voyagers of us.

But now after four centuries of action and achievement, we are finally looking around the planet and seeing that our presence – from Tipperary to Tokyo – is an enviable and viable soft power that is only waiting to be better appreciated and harnessed.

There are hundreds of colorful Irish parades each year in countries that are as far from Ireland as it is possible to be now. People who have never been closer than a Guinness glass to Dublin don green and take to the streets and celebrate what they love: Irish friendliness, community, culture, the craic. It's a momentary takeover without a shot fired. You can't put a price on it

So we can't leave the Diaspora and its importance to our government alone, I think. Governments change, as do their missions. Our corporations only promote their bottom line. We need to create dynamic new international Irish cultural programs that better link our Diaspora to the mothership of Ireland itself. 

The Epic Museum in Dublin is a good example of the kind of project that we need to undertake now, being a database and hive mind of the experiences of our Diaspora, a place to house their stories and record all the lessons they learned.

Because we need to keep learning from each other, wherever the wind has taken us, and whatever is made of us. 

The surprise is that still, you're as Irish in Melbourne as you are in Maynooth. We have been far too restrictive in our understanding of that fact. Being Irish isn't just a condition of birth, it's a cultural inheritance and a way of being alive in the world, and we haven't even seen the half of it yet.

That great work is just beginning.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section, below. 

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