‘I left Ireland in the late 1990s, disenchanted with the Celtic Tiger’

‘Ireland and Me’: Sarah De Klein, Winnipeg, Canada

Sarah De Klein: ‘I miss many things about Ireland. I often talk about returning “home”. I make the calls, put out feelers... But my life is here, for now.’

Sarah De Klein: ‘I miss many things about Ireland. I often talk about returning “home”. I make the calls, put out feelers... But my life is here, for now.’

 

Last November, The Irish Times invited Irish readers living abroad to submit their reflections on their relationship with the land they left in the ‘Ireland and Me’ competition. The story below is one of the entries we received, which is collected in a new 'Ireland and Me' eBook.

On a cold winter’s day in Winnipeg where I live, I heard Colm Tóibín interviewed on CBC Radio 4. I could have been in the kitchen at home in Kerry having a cup of tea with my mother.

He talked about what it is to be Irish and living abroad. That the “yearning for home is hardwired into our DNA”, that the euphoria of travelling home evaporates almost on arrival, like a promise whispered on a soft breeze.

I left Ireland in the late 1990s, disenchanted with the frenzy of the Celtic Tiger. I was living and working in Dublin, and witnessed what appeared to be a sort of ethnic cleansing, a desire to slough away Irishness and replace it with Americanisms and Britishness. The attendant infrastructure to make this all possible like the plastic surgeons and luxury car dealers soon followed. I left at its height.

I met my Canadian husband in London, lived around Europe for a while, and eventually settled in Canada. Once you leave Europe the strong tether to Ireland feels so unbearably fine, as if the miles are stretching the bond that holds you to it.

Children came along, making me feel I was living in a parallel universe to the one in which I grew up. The differences in bringing up children in North America are seismic. The endless discussion and debate and negotiation here bears no relation to the cut and dried approach I grew up with. I can still hear my mother: “Well, you’ve two choices, take it or leave it”. Peculiar now how comforting that is.

I see now the wisdom of this tough love, this Irishness. I understand its place in the scheme of things. There is an arrogance that comes with having plenty, a sort of swagger. A tuning out, if you will, of the goings on elsewhere.

And oddly enough, the certainty that you will be “taken down a peg or two” at home if you get too cocky, a trait I once found gratingly annoying, I now find strangely appealing.

This is, needless to say, why so many Irish do so very well when they emigrate - it’s that delicate combination of slightly low self esteem coupled with a burning ambition. Heady stuff.

I miss many things about Ireland. I often talk about returning “home”. I make the calls, put out feelers. I think of a poem by Robert Frost, ‘The sound of Trees’.

“They are that talks of going
But never gets away;
And talks no less for knowing,
That now it means to stay.”

I think I will always be Irish. But my life is here, for now.

For more ‘Ireland and Me’ stories, click here. The Irish Times eBook of selected entries is available for download here.

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