What if – through no reason of your own - the embrace of an Irish family circle is no longer on offer to you? Even in a pandemic. What if the people who care the least about you are also the people who raised - or grew up alongside - you?

What if you haven't seen any of your uncommunicative siblings in decades and they really seem to prefer it that way? Where do such Irish people go when the stuff hits the fan?

Whilst most of us get The Brady Bunch, a few of us will always get the House of Atreus. It would do no harm at all to remember that the odd time or that other person may not have the same family shelter options that you take for granted.

There have been so many stories in the press during the pandemic about the comfort provided by Irish families. Stories about how hard lockdown has been without regular access to grandparents, hugs, meals, and family get-togethers.

I don't doubt any of that, but I haven't read a single story about how people from broken Irish families are faring. You know, all the people who can't take an Aer Lingus home to a turf fire, a feed of spuds, and a nice cup of tea. 

By this stage in the pandemic, I've read countless accounts of Irish people living abroad who, for various reasons, made the early decision to return home and weather out the pandemic in Ireland with their families. 

Home for most of them – actually, home for all the people in all the stories I read – meant a return to the embrace of their parents and siblings. I don't blame them at all if that's on offer. I suppose in a way it's a kind of communal Irish homing instinct, centuries deep, to take shelter with your own in a time of crisis. 

But the realization that I haven't read a single story like mine - about an alienated and broken family like my own - has made me reluctantly write this.

Out of curiosity, I wonder how many of us there are in the world now, my fellow Irish outcasts, gay and straight? It's not a club that people angle to join but we all know it's not exactly a small contingent is it? Is there a government department to look out for the likes of us, the banished children? 

Considering how many of us there are knocking about from Kilburn to Sydney, it puzzles me that I haven't read a single recognizable story about a broken family like my own in the press. We all know there are countless Irish people who are long cut off from the comforts of home and hearth. Who's writing about - or for them? 

The big lesson of this pandemic is that everything connects – that the brotherhood of man is a terrific, urgent reality – and it's a lesson we should carry with us after it ends.

So try to remember Ireland's prodigal brothers (and sisters) when you're welcomed back home. And try to remember that for all your own good fortune, most of the bonds that protect you are as ephemeral as smoke. 

And if you must write another heartwarming piece about the many comforts of your lockdown life, have a thought for people in slightly less fortunate family circumstances too, betimes. 

For a nation of people who historically have know the sting of exclusion and rejection, we can be remarkably short-sighted when it's happening to our friends.

Iht 600x300px with button2