Marie-Claire Logue.

Being Irish, And Being In Good Company

It's December and I am in, well, august company.

That would be one hundred others who contributed to the book "Being Irish, 101 views on Irish Identity, what it means to be Irish in a modern world."

I am neither the first of the 101, nor the last. Just one in a hundred and one. A good thing. You always need a little cover between a book cover.

The book is published out of Ireland by The Liffey Press and, dare I say it, would sit well under any Christmas tree. It is edited by Marie-Claire Logue. This from the press release: "It was against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown that Marie-Claire Logue and her father Paddy discussed how much Ireland had changed in the twenty years since Paddy had edited the hugely popular, "Being Irish."

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"Encouraged by Paddy, Marie-Claire felt the time was right to take a fresh look at Irish identity. Having secured Liffey Press as her publisher, Marie-Claire formed a small editorial group that identified a variety of contributors, contacted and convinced them to submit their views.

"Most of the people contacted were up for the challenge. They shared a feeling that Ireland and the Irish were going through a period of change unprecedented since the years of the Celtic Tiger and the Good Friday Agreement. By inviting people from as many sectors and backgrounds as possible Marie-Claire has achieved a balance in age, gender and viewpoints.

The contributions come from the ranks of the famous and not so famous, people at the centre of things and people at the margins, people who live in Ireland and those who live abroad, the Irish and not-Irish-but-interested. "Contributors were free to say whatever they liked. The intention was to be inclusive and non-judgmental.

All were asked the same questions: What does Irish identity mean to you personally? Why do 70 million people worldwide embrace their Irish heritage? Are we navel-gazing? Or are there real changes in attitude taking place in Ireland and among the Irish worldwide? "Many of the contributors’ thoughts on identity came to the forefront of their minds when they left Ireland, and it was clear how important Irish identity is to the second and third generations of Irish people who grew up outside the country.

There was less mention of peace in this collection than in 2000, particularly among the younger contributors. "Does this mean that peace is now taken for granted on the island? The reflections in this volume show that there are many ways of being Irish.

We can be Irish by birth, Irish by ancestry, Irish by geography, Irish and British, Irish by accident, Northern Irish, Irish by necessity, Irish and European, Irish by association, Irish by culture, Irish and American and Irish by choice.

"Of all the themes that emerged, a major one was agreement that there is no one sense of Irish identity. Another is that Ireland has changed for the better over the past twenty years, but there remain serious issues that need to be addressed. While Irish identity is not set in stone and is navigating a period of change, it is anchored to a few basic reference points.

These include a warmth of welcome, a peculiar sense of humour, resilience in the face of adversity and the importance of the home place. "In the introduction, the author describes how one afternoon whilst working on the manuscript Marie-Claire could hear the faint hum of band music from a few streets away. The Apprentice Boys of Derry were practising for the annual Relief of Londonderry Parade.

At the same time, her toddler daughter was singing ‘Lámh, lámh eile’, an Irish children’s song taught to her by her Granny. She is singing the tune as she dances along to the band music outside, assuming the faint hum of the Lambeg drum is the musical accompaniment to her vocal solo, with her baby brother her admiring audience. Maire-Claire wondered, not for the first time, what journey Irish identity will take in their lifetime."

And this is the editor: "Marie-Claire Logue was born in 1989 and grew up on both sides of the border in Derry and Donegal. She was educated in the Northern Ireland school system, attending Foyle College. On graduating in Law with French at the Magee College campus of the University of Ulster during the economic crash, she joined the thousands of Irish who emigrated to Sydney as an economic migrant working in a variety of law firms.

After three years she won a scholarship to the University of Law in London and on graduating worked in Pinsent Mason’s Belfast office before moving to McCay’s Solicitors in Derry. "Her legal experience, her Northern Ireland background and her life as a migrant in Sydney and London have given her an acute interest in identity, its personal origins, its development, how it reacts to travel and the impact of external events.

She is aware, as are many at home and abroad, that Ireland is undergoing a challenging period of change." Indeed it is. Here is the full list of contributors, including yours truly, in alphabetical order: Gerry Adams, Hajar Akl, Yaser Alashqar, "Asylum Seeker," Sinéad Blaché-Breen, David Bruce, Teresa Buczkowska, Gerald Butler, Geraldine Byrne Nason, Jack Byrne, Tony Connelly, Louise Cooney, Jack Coulter, Lisa Cunningham Guthrie, Alison Curtis, Emma DeSouza, Martin E. Dempsey, Flossie Donnelly, Lola Donoghue, Brian Dooley, Colum Eastwood, Linda Ervine, Sinéad Flanagan, Eileen Flynn, Olwen Fouéré, John Froude, Niall Gibbons, Mervyn Gibson, Cathriona Hallahan, Marina Hamilton, Patricia Harty, Pete Hogan, Billy Holland, Merlin Holland, Eamonn Holmes, LeAnne Howe & Padraig Kirwan, Eileen Ivers, Roland Jaquarello, Helen Johnston, Alex Kane, Sinead Kane, Brendan Kelly, Kevin Kilbane, Peadar King, Teresa Lambe, Robbie Lawlor, Ola Majekodunmi, Martin Mansergh, Archbishop Eamon Martin, Micheál Martin,Sinéad McArdle, Andrew McCammon, Larry McCarthy, Gareth McCay, Oisín McConville, Sharon McCooey, AP McCoy, Mary-Lou McDonald, Archbishop John McDowell, Fiona McEntee, Eamon McGee, Lisa McGee, Tom McKnight, Fiona McLaughlin, JP McMahon, Annie MacManus, Ryan McMullan, Dominic MacSorley, Bulelani Mfaco, Paddy Monahan, Daniel Mulhall, Anthony Murphy, Eimear Noone, Maureen O’Brien, Orla O’Connor, John O’Doherty, Santis O’Garro, Ray O’Hanlon, Hilary O’Meara,  Alison O’Neill, Philip Orr, Camille O’Sullivan, Sonia O’Sullivan James Patrice, Norah Patten, Marguerite Penrose, Richard Pine, Sorcha Pollak, Tomi Reichental, Louise Richardson, Nenad Šebek, Peter Sheridan, Kenny Shiels, Juan Lopez Tiboni, Mary Toomey, Leo Varadkar, Hilary Wakeman, Shona Weymes, Keith Wood.

After living more than half my life in the United States, being a dual citizen, being married to an American, and being the father of three Americans, it was interesting indeed to ponder my Irishness, my "Being Irish." It would also be interesting indeed to write about "Being American." But sin sceil eile; for another book.