There's little special about being Irish, no matter how many certs you have
When asked if he was British, Samuel Beckett quipped, “Au Contraire”. We haven’t moved on much since then. Like an adult child who can’t seem to shake off the influence of the overbearing parent, we eye up our differences and our similarities with our closest neighbour with a semi-appalled fascination.
We’ve got Tayto, Gaelic games, Wilde, Yeats, the Irish funeral, red lemonade, Katie Taylor, and heading out for the messages. They’ve got Walkers, cricket, Shakespeare, the Brontë sisters, the royal family, ginger beer, Katie Taylor’s dad, and running errands.
Then there are the things we reluctantly agree to share: Rory McIlroy; rugby; rain; Dara O Briain; Graham Norton; Father Ted; a sense of irony; tea, and an over-inflated notion of our place in the world.
If we really wanted to be truthful, we should start issuing certificates proclaiming that the holder has roots in “the best damp little country on the outskirts of Europe that’s not Britain”.
The Gathering is predicated on a similarly confused and self-indulgent idea about Irishness: the notion that generations of Irish people lost something irreplaceable by emigration, and they’ll answer a call to return en masse and find it.
Most of the time, emigration is only a tragedy for those of us left behind. The new generation of emigrants miss their families, but many of them can’t wait to get out. One friend who has recently emigrated to Asia says she is sad to be so far away from friends and family, but admits it’s a relief to be free of the doom and gloom.
My brother left for Australia six years ago and has only managed one trip home since, a fact about which he is not nearly devastated enough for my liking.
A survey of some of the Facebook pages of the recently dispossessed suggests they’re far too busy making sure their burgers are cooked through on the barbecue, or saving turtles or abseiling in Africa, to worry much about what they’re missing back home. And who can blame them? But let’s not to be too surprised if they don’t all rush back next year.
Meanwhile, the certificate of Irishness has just been extended for a year. If the Government wants to rescue it from the oblivion to which it almost certainly seems headed after that, we should stop making applicants provide cumbersome documentary evidence and ask them a few simple questions instead.
Like: what do you do with tackies, hot presses and blaas? Can you quote at least one line from The Snapper? Did you party? (If you answered yes to the last one, you’re definitely not Irish.)
The real fear of Halloween? Letting the children run riot