First of all, welcome. We are honoured to have 6,600 of you here even if we are enraged by the reason for your arrival. The list of services and benefits and resources for you on official website gov.ie is long and detailed and full of important information to assist you. Your numbers will grow in the coming days and weeks and the message to all of you from the Irish State is simply put on the Government website: “We are here to help and support you.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the BBC: “Our primary impulse is to assist those fleeing war . . . what we’re witnessing on our screens every evening is really shocking people and there is huge human empathy to help the women and the children.”
We have all been gripped by the details of your country’s trauma. And in the coming days and weeks you will find many of us keen to offer comfort as you deal with the profound physical, emotional and psychological consequences of Russia’s disgusting invasion of your country. Irish people are notoriously inquisitive and enthusiastic; our concern may even seem a little overbearing at times, but please know it comes from the heart.
A cursory glance at any restaurant menu will prove that everything you've heard about Irish people and potatoes is true
First, some practical advice: there is, despite all best intentions, a high chance of frustration as you try to navigate paperwork and bureaucracy in this country. As a country, we are mad for a bit of unnecessary administration. While we are allegedly the tech capital of Europe, some people still send faxes and civil service departments have been known to deliver important documents via owl like in Harry Potter. (I am slightly exaggerating about the faxes.)
The good news is many of us are almost pathological in our desire to help and so the most efficient thing to do, when you encounter any kind of problem, is to ask someone, anyone, for assistance. If we can’t assist we know someone who can. Due to the aforementioned obsession with administration, it’s usually more direct to ask someone, even a random stranger, than going down the official channels. For example, trying to open a bank account could mean a lot of bureaucracy, but if you ask somebody it’s likely they will know somebody else who knows somebody whose friend’s cousin works in the bank. Problem solved.
You’ve arrived here in the run-up to our national holiday St Patrick’s Day. This is an excellent time to get to know more about us. For a start, a cursory glance at any restaurant menu will prove that everything you’ve heard about Irish people and potatoes is true. See also, coleslaw.
Sorry about the weather. It’s due to get better soon and in the summer, when the teenagers have exams and are all stuck inside sweating over algebra and poetry – during this time the sun will shine relentlessly, according to an ancient tradition. We become very excited when it gets warm here. Do not be shocked to see shirtless men in parks and on beaches when the temperature soars to a balmy 15 degrees. We don’t really know how to dress for the heat. Expect to bump into people wearing socks and sandals at the same time. And not in a postmodern, stylish European way. While socks with sandals are culturally tolerated here, please remember it’s illegal in this country to say “no” to a cup of tea when offered, even if you don’t drink tea. For further research on this watch a television programme called Father Ted.
Mark my words, the most useful word while you're here will be grand
Some other important cultural and linguistic points to note: having the craic in Ireland does not mean taking drugs. Yokes have nothing to do with eggs. A Jedward is a term for an energetic and endearing pop musical combo. We say "thank you" to the bus driver as we leave the bus. People go swimming in the bitterly cold sea all year round and some of them are mocked by other people for keeping warm by wrapping themselves in Dryrobes. A packet of Tayto crisps stuffed between two slices of highly processed and liberally buttered bread is called a crisp sandwich. It is a national delicacy. (Trust us, you are going to love it.)
Finally, if you only learn one English word that is commonly used in Ireland make it “grand”. It is monosyllabic and yet surprisingly multipurpose and also, as a bonus, makes a great starter Wordle word. In Ireland, “grand” can mean anything including what it normally means in the English language, which is posh.
Mark my words, the most useful word while you’re here will be grand. “I’m grand” can mean “I am fine”. It can mean “I am depressed”. It can mean “I just won the Lotto” or “my wife left me, my cat died and somebody robbed my electric scooter”. When someone asks how you are, just say “grand” and it will always be the correct answer.
These are terrible, turbulent, uncertain times. One thing you can depend upon during St Patrick’s week and all the weeks to come is that you will be helped and supported while you are here.
Céad míle fáilte. Lá Fhéile Pádraig. Slava Ukraini.
In solidarity, Róisín