Dear World . . . Love, Ireland
Five people compose letters from Ireland to the wider world. Read theirs, write your own, and we’ll publish the best ones on St Patrick’s Weekend
‘A land of magical mists, sideways rain and copious Starbucks’
Dear World, – Sometimes it’s exhausting. Being Irish. The weight of history. The self-doubt. The constant analysis. The wind.
I write this from a small but stubborn outcrop on the far edge of Europe, a land of green, rich with ancient stories and legends, a land of magical mists, sideways rain and copious Starbucks. A land that has withstood the most horrendous of challenges: famine, centuries of colonial occupation, the conservative grip of a Catholic hierarchy, political skullduggery, record-breaking fiscal mismanagement and a shattering fall from grace at the Eurovision Song Contest.
But, my dear people of the outside world, let me tell you all that although we are down we are never beaten. “You’ll never beat the Irish” (although “You’ll often beat the Irish, but it doesn’t stop us singing” would be more accurate). Remember, these past decades have seen us rise from humble shadows to become a modern European state.
Sure, Rest of the World, we went a bit mad in the sweet shop. Sure, some of us partied. But know this: we won’t make those mistakes again. We are now a leaner, meaner economic machine. (It’s amazing what shedding a couple of hundred thousand youngsters can do for the old balance sheet.) We’ve truly learned from our past mistakes. (The property-price hikes in Dublin are just a normal correction as part of the economic cycle, don’t worry.)
Rest of the World, we are open for business. – Love, Ireland.
PS: Please send money.
(By Colm Tobin, scriptwriter)
‘Nobody mentioned the loneliness of leaving and of being left behind’
Dear World, – Three and a half years ago I wrote for The Irish Times as a college student facing a destitute future in a bust economy. I was frightened of what would become of me, scared of the lack of opportunity that faced me beyond the safe walls of university. When it was published I became a target of both love and hate. Some respondents called me entitled and self-righteous; others encouraged me to leave Ireland before Ireland left me in the dust.
Well, I’m still here. I completed a master’s, worked part time for two and a half years and sought an internship I adored. I worked in communications for a politician and took part in a six-month youth journalism project, covering the Irish presidency of the Council of the European Union. In late 2013 I got a job with an NGO in Dublin and finally left Cork, many months after most of my friends.
By the time I left, Cork had become quiet. Toronto, London, Edinburgh, Sydney and China all called, and my friends answered in staggered groups. I noticed it in fewer social events and birthdays; fewer nights out. It felt like all the young people in Cork were there one day and gone the next.
In all of the discussions about emigration, and the brilliant, streaming light of gainful employment elsewhere, nobody mentioned the loneliness of leaving and the loneliness of being left behind.
The rest of the world is hosting hundreds of thousands of Irish people in their mid 20s. The reality of that has yet to properly bite us. Our young people have left to explore the wider world alone. In it they will set up their own lives, create new careers, marry and have children. They will settle, and it won’t be on home soil.
I miss the people I grew up with. I miss my friends. With the dawn of social networking it’s easier to stay in touch, but every few weeks there’s a Facebook update from someone else about to depart these shores. They leave in exultation, delighted to be working and living a life they imagined, reliant on themselves and determined to succeed.
What I’ve learned is that no matter where we fly to, and no matter what we do when we get there, like generations before us we’re more resilient than we look. We’ve been unafraid in our endeavours, leaping off cliffs into the unknown with unbridled hope. We’ve embraced fear. Not a person alive can say we’ve lacked courage.
Rest of the World, please mind my friends. Please keep them safe and happy. I know they had mighty dreams and aspirations. Please help them to achieve those lofty goals. And when the time comes, in two years or in 20, lead them home. – Love, Ireland
(By Aisling Twomey, information co-ordinator, Pavee Point)
‘When you think of us, try this simple sum’
Dear World, – Mental arithmetic is out of fashion, but when you think of us please try this simple sum.
Ireland. Minus the shysters. Minus the chancers. Minus the craw thumpers. Minus the sneaking regarders. Minus the Machine. Minus the half-arse. Minus the bigots. Minus the nod. Minus the wink. Minus the masochists. Minus “ah sure it’ll do”. Minus “everything is just grand”. Minus “the best little country in the world to do business”.
Plus the compassion. Plus the poetry. Plus the mock-heroic humour. Plus the resistance. Plus the sweet melancholy. Plus the hopelessly irrational hope. Plus the little ripple of divilment in the eyes. Plus “get up the yard”. Plus “the head on that and the price of cabbages”. Plus “the best little country in the world to be a child”.
Multiplied by the bittersweet memories in scattered hearts.
Over a quiet pint.
Equals a kind of wonderful place. – Love, Ireland
(By Fintan O’Toole, journalist)
‘Will you put your clothes back on, the whole lot of you?’
Dear World, – We’d barely kicked the sanctified mud off our boots, barely joined the human race, before you lot were off again, tattooing your bottoms with butterflies and bleating on about free love and miso soup and Montessoris and melting pots and God knows what else. Would you slow down and give us a bloody minute?
We’d just about learned to unravel a condom when you started peddling vajazzles and Brazilians and green tea and troilism and speed-dating and selfies, and now we children of a sterner god are getting terribly confused.
Lookit, we’re broke and nigh on heathen now. It’s been raining all year, and every other person you meet is a vegan with a plastic Buddha underneath the rose bush. What’s more, nothing will do our endlessly educated children except to trek through Machu Picchu with a nose ring and dreadlocks and expensive Danish footwear that we have paid for out of our diminishing pension entitlements.
I went on holiday myself recently. Driven mad by the gales, I spent my communion money on the airfare, found a bit of sunshine and sat on a beach like a mottled milk bottle. And herein lies the nub of my request: will you put your clothes back on, the whole lot of you? I am sick to the back teeth of you shower disporting yourselves around the coastlines of our wounded planet, eating your red cabbage and pumpernickel sandwiches in your altogether.
It’s just not fair on us Irish, having to keep our storm-battered physiques wrapped against the elements for nine-tenths of the year and then, at our first tentative and partial disrobing to greet the sun, to be assaulted by wanton international nudity.
And I don’t just mean the Germans, although it sticks in the craw to accept their money, and their mandates, knowing that as soon as our backs are turned they’ll be thronging the beaches in nothing more than orthopaedic sandals and sunblock.
Oh, we’ve known oppression in this country. The confessional was our burqa, the grille across our faces, the weight of sin we wore around our shoulders like a cloak.
I’m not suggesting for one minute that we go back to those times. I’m simply asking that you international exhibitionistas keep your pants on. Especially the yogis, who I’ve noticed are terribly eager to salute the season in their sinewy old birthday suits.
That’s it. Sure we’ll all be Scandinavian in the end, won’t we? Sooner or later the dust will settle and we’ll all be encased in birch veneer. – Love, Ireland
(By Hilary Fannin, columnist)
‘The soul of our country is dying. Please help’
Dear World, – The soul of our country is dying. Please help. – Love, Ireland.
(By Michael Harding, author, playwright and columnist)
‘If you want to lift the lid, discover what is inside, come and meet us’
Dear World, – As St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in the rest of the world next week, we Irish can reflect on the image of ourselves that is mirrored back to us. What is it saying, and how do we respond to it?
If you are truly curious about Ireland in 2014 you can put your finger on the pulse of the nation by engaging with the broad range of art that will be presented countrywide during the coming month.
Let’s travel outside Dublin, although you should acquire If Ever You Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song , hot off the presses and the book chosen for One City One Book 2014, to read on the train.
Limerick, currently national City of Culture, presents two exceptional exhibitions: Michael Warren’s installations are in the tradition of European philosophical thought and art history; in contrast, Richard Mosse is a young and courageous photographer whose images from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo are visually stunning and thought-provoking.
Cúirt Literary Festival, in Galway, includes the brilliant young rising star Eimear McBride in the company of Sebastian Barry, Hugo Hamilton and Roddy Doyle.
Dingle has an international film festival in that Kerry peninsula’s beautiful landscape.
Moving to the southeast, you can enjoy the concerts of Waterford New Music Week in both formal and informal settings in its historic streets. This is Ireland’s oldest city, founded by Vikings in 914, 1,100 years ago.
Sligo Feis Ceoil offers traditional music, song and verse. Or you might be lured to west Clare to join in the creativity of Doolin Writers’ Weekend.
Artists, just like you, are curious, adventurous, thoughtful and full of fun. They are close to the heartbeat of the country. If you want to lift the lid, discover what is inside, come and meet us in Ireland. – Love, Ireland
(By Sheila Pratschke, chairwoman of the Arts Council)
Write a letter to the World from Ireland, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. A selection will be published next Saturday. One writer will receive a book token worth €100.