Wasn’t I surprised when my five year old came home from school with the question, ‘what half am I mom?’ I know I’m one half Irish, but what other half?’ Goes to show it takes more than a name with fada to instil identity.
The question arose when in class they were discussing where they come from. Many of children parents are from different countries, they rationalise their identity by saying, I’m half Spanish half Portuguese, I’m half American, half Irish, I’m half Italian, half Canadian and so on. Others give a nod to where they lived most of their lives, so they say, I’m half UK, half Dubai, half Tunisian, half American and so on. Of course it is irrelevant that even if you’ve been born, raised and still reside in Qatar, you will never be a recognised citizen on paper. No matter, if Qatar is in your heart, then go for it and say you’re half Qatari, incidentally, I have yet to hear someone say it. Then there are the children that spend significant time with their grandparents in Greece, for example, and here it gets complicated, they say, I’m half American, quarter Italian and a quarter Greek. Eager to incorporate all their influences and recognise all the contributing cultures they give a nod to all involved.
At various stages in our lives, many of us struggle with identity. All the psychologists will tell you that a sense of identity is vital to leading a fulfilled life. A sense of self, sense of belonging, sense of where you come are all vital to get where you’re going successfully.
Of course there are several times during our lives when our sense of identity is shaken or questioned and we must re-assess our situation and position. During the teenage years is possibly one of the most likely times that we will suffer from identity issues. The staples are where you live/ where you’re from, these are the things give the basic stability and framework to a person’s sense of identity, teenagers then develop their identity further and sense of themselves through music, clothes, hobbies etc, and throughout our lives we continue to develop our identity, honing our traits, developing and expanding our skills and interests all the time becoming more and more self-assured. But the foundations were solid, the sense of where you came from was strong.
So for our Irish expat kids born and living abroad is this foundation sense of identity missing? On top of the reality of having to enrol in UCC as an International student, will they lack a sense of identity and lack a sense of being Irish despite it being the nationality on their passport? And the other question, how do we teach our kids what it means to be Irish?
Listening to reports of the election you might think that being Irish means that you are bound to feel eternal shame if you earn more than Eu.100k. You might think that being Irish means that you have a limitless capacity to listen to empty promises and catchy political phrases but alas, we are where we are, we need to suck it up and going forward we need to ask, do you give the keys to the bus back to driver when he drove it over the cliff? I notice there were no catchy phrases or not even an empty promise to get emigrants like me back, I didn’t expect a specific mention but a general address to the thousands that left over the last seven years would have been nice, then again we don’t have a polling station in Doha, so we’re just not that important.
However, that’s just politics and apart from those standard inefficiencies that exist in even the most smooth running countries, we are a proud nation of sportspeople, poets, writers, artists, musicians, thinkers, do-ers, and whatever country we live in, we stand out for our work ethic, resilience and on top of all that we’re great craic.
So in answer to the initial question, the expat answer would be ‘your half Irish, (quarter Munster/quarter Connacht) you’re a quarter Qatari, an eighth Abu Dhabi and an eighth Indonesian’. The question I gave, ‘you’re not half anything, you’re Full Irish’.