It was only when a good friend of mine recently flew back to Ireland for her citizenship ceremony that I came round to the idea that being granted citizenship in a country, particularly Ireland of course, is a pretty big deal. Up to then I ashamedly looked with cynicism at highlights of ceremony on the six o’clock news and tutted about ‘all the Polish’ that are now more Irish than the Irish themselves. ‘Polish’, here, in my ignorance/arrogance to refer to anyone after Germany and before China that decides to settle down and make a life Ireland. Nigerians, Filipina’s and Indians to make up the deficit in what collectively I may have called the group of ‘everyone and anyone’ now being allowed citizenship in Ireland.
I may have thought that Ireland should stay like some exclusive club, we’d have our own private inside jokes that only we’d get. All the best jobs would be ours, and all the worst ones too. We’d keep ourselves to ourselves, mind our own business and eventually when it would come time to emigrate, we would move to Queens, Qatar and Queensland and join an Irish club there. With the help of God, it’d be an Irish girl at the check-in desk and with a bit of luck we wouldn’t have to talk to anyone from anywhere else on the flight so we’d arrive at our destination, work and play in an Irish community and hurry home with bags of cash to buy a site.
However, my recent years of living expat life in Qatar have taught me that after a while, say six or seven years, it gets a little monotonous being just a visitor. No rights to vote and no incentive to invest emotionally, practically or financially in the community one ends up feeling a little detached. Given that the political system in Qatar is an absolute monarchy, it’s not quite so bad because no one else has a vote either, or incentive to invest emotionally, practically or financially. The effect on the country, Qatar, being that they strive to progress in a fixed fashion, rather than involving and considering ideas from their own people or listening to even one voice from any of thousands and thousands of well-educated, well- travelling, well-worth listening to expats that are helping to make Qatar the country they are and the Qatar hope to be in twenty years’ time.
There’s an empty feeling to having children in Qatar, born in Qatar, raised in Qatar but will never be a citizen, or be accepted to the fold, (even if you wanted to be), that’s where the offence kicks in, because then it’s personal.
So for the first time when the ceremony in Ireland arose, I actually knew somebody, personally, who was being granted Irish citizenship. And when I called her by name and not ‘some Polish one’ (Polish to mean American in this case) it felt different. I knew Sarah, as a person. I knew she had invested in Ireland, and Ireland had invested in her. She immersed herself in Irish society, she didn’t arrive in Ireland and set up an American Women’s club excluding herself. She took time and patience to get to know all the little Irish idiosyncrasies that with understanding same, making integration in Irish society virtually impossible. She lived alongside Irish in-laws and didn’t attempt to murder them or jump off a cliff herself (sensitive issue I know in these times, but all credit to those that don’t mass murder). She worked in University life, enriching the lives of students from all over the world. She embraced Ireland. Ireland in return gained from her and a differing point of view, an outsider casting a hue in everyday life, bringing dynamic and alternative perspective.
Sarah called Ireland home alongside the US, you couldn’t expect someone to forget their roots. But while all our roots are established and cannot be changed, the flowers that emerge can and are a result of different climates and conditions. You’re roots may be in Ballyphehane but you might flower in Bali. So welcome to all the bright and beautiful new flowers to Ireland, thanks for adding colour to our lives.