My new year’s resolution for 2022 is to become Irish. I’m pursuing it through legal routes.
When England and Wales voted in favour of Brexit, I was living in Geneva as a student.
I’d been accepted onto the Swiss Mobility exchange programme.
It’s a clone of the Europe-wide Erasmus system that lets working class folk like me get subsidised to go away, encounter new people, new ideas, grow, then bring that growth and those networks back to Scotland.
If this sounds a bit bougie fair enough.
But Erasmus also sent my social worker pal Martin to Germany for four months to understand and work in the care sector there, again fostering working class engagement and networking.
Heading to Geneva, I was determined to improve my French to a level where I could work in it.
My horizons were broad.
After uni I could work in Dundee or Edinburgh, absolutely.
But with the experience abroad I could pursue a dream I’d always harboured: living someplace Francophone, speaking French.
Pre Brexit, my non-Scottish life options were Lyon, Paris, Geneva. Exotic and thrilling.
My post Brexit options are places like Slough. Reading. Preston.
Hence my pivot towards our nearest European neighbours over on the Emerald Isle.
Irish citizenship – my family’s secret weapon
There’s a couple of routes to go down if you’re after that Irish citizenship.
You can get an Irish passport if your parents or grandparents were born there.
Mine wernae. But my great-grandparents were. And that offers a thread of hope.
My granda telt a story about how his dad left.
He was fae a fishing village, and he got blootered one night. Really, badly, heavy bevvied.
He couldnae get served at the local howff anymair, so he determined to march the miles to the next village to continue his spree.
His legs felt weary under him, so to shorten his journey he nicked the parish priest’s pony.
He then forced the wee horse to ford a burn he came across.
Somehow the twosome got into difficulty, and the beast drowned.
General shame came upon my great grandad, and over he came to Scotland to run from his past.
Or so goes the story.
Thinking big Phil Lynott today 💚 pic.twitter.com/NQFitbX3ZZ
— Partigiani Maldini ☘️ (@IveaghGael) January 4, 2022
My great-grandad came to the Isle of Arran looking for labouring work.
There he met my great granny, also from Ireland, who was working in the big hoose.
I’ll need to dig out their death certificates for my application.
But this connection alone won’t be enough to secure my citizenship. Instead, I’ve got to prove an ongoing connection with Ireland.
Did you hear the one about…?
Well, my granda raised me on a steady diet of jokes about two daft Irish guys, Paddy and Mick.
“Paddy and Mick went to the moon,” one of his jokes went.
“Mick says ‘Paddy I’m away out for a look around’, and off he goes in his space suit while Paddy stays in the ship.
About 10 minutes later there’s a knock at the door.
‘Whos there?!?’ Paddy demands.”
My grandad would slap his knee and his falsers would nearly leap out his mouth with the laughter.
Jokes alone probably won’t be enough to evidence my ongoing affinity but I’ve got other connections.
I’ve pals that’ve flitted back and forth, family connections on both sides of the sheuch, I really laughed at Flann O’Brien’s novels.
I spent a full Covid season inside Tannadice, interpreting club legend Sean Dillon’s broad Irish brogue on DUTV, the club channel.
Does that make me Irish enough to claim citizenship?
Questions of identity
If this all sounds like a bit of a joke to you, maybe it should.
Dour civil servants with rubber stamps and forms having the power to legally legitimise something as deeply felt as identity or belonging feels vulgar.
Identities exist within us like seeds, I think.
The right nurturing can bring different growth forth.
Part of me is a Dundee United supporter, a seed planted young but nurtured only from my 20s, through shuttles up the Hilltoon to the Dode Fox stand.
Part of me is a brother and a son. Another is a writer. Another, a lover.
Sunrise on Tannadice queueing for tickets. 🌤
Club staff handing out tins of juice to us, kids skipping high school to be here, folk missing work. Great pic.twitter.com/fGeFGIzG5D
— Alistair Heather (@Historic_Ally) December 16, 2021
We all have this. None of us are one single person.
I’m also Scottish, in an ethnic, rich and earthy way. I belong to this place.
A connection forged through considered contemplation and biological happenchance.
I’m legally British, an identity against which I chafe.
I’m also a New Zealander through citizenship, and I do embrace and accept that part of me.
The Irish seed in me has perhaps not yet been fully watered and brought to its full potential.
But it could be.
My heart already feels the connections.
Our music, our language, our history, our modern sporting fields, all interwoven, for better and worse.
If I do become Irish, my Scottishness will not be diminished, but my western horizons will be thrown open.
A new part of me could begin to grow.
And in an ironic twist of fate, I might cross the same sheuch to Ireland looking for better opportunity, just as some of my ancestors crossed it in the other direction, looking for a new life here.