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.