Personal Insights: My love letter to Ireland

Our latest Personal Insight submission is a 'A Love Letter to Ireland' from Fiona Cooney, a young Irish expatriate presently living in Vancouver.
Personal Insights: My love letter to Ireland

Our latest Personal Insight submission is a 'A Love Letter to Ireland' from Fiona Cooney, a young Irish expatriate presently living in Vancouver.

Ireland, oh how I’ve missed you. I didn’t realise the extent of my longing until I set foot on Irish soil again after a two year hiatus.

Before the plane had even landed, I was already experiencing a comforting wave of familiarity. As we descended beneath the clouds, all I could see was green. My face beamed with a smile so big that it could rival a Cheshire-cat.

I hail from a small town in Tipperary called Nenagh. I was two years old when my parents decided to move to Australia. It is only now that I can fully appreciate the bravery of such a move. Their decision to head down under was made long before it became a popular destination for would-be immigrants.

My family adapted well to the Australian way of life. Mum quickly became accustomed to the warmer climate. With a book in hand, she could spend hours basking or perhaps baking in the sun. Her pale skin was soon transformed into a shade of bronze that even the most sun-savvy Aussie would envy.

My dad became a regular fixture behind the barbecue. He also developed a keen interest in Australian Rules football. Amazingly, Dad even mastered the didgeridoo.

Despite immersing themselves in a brand new culture, my parents managed to keep the Celtic spirit alive within our family. Sundays were particularly Irish. Dad was a member of the Gaelic football league in Western Australia. Every Sunday we would pile into the car and head for the football pitch to watch him play.

Gaelic football gave all the Irish immigrants in Perth an opportunity to get together and compete in their home country’s beloved sport. It also gave them a great excuse to socialise. Win or lose, my dad and his fellow teammates would always end up in Rosie O’Gradies –an Irish themed pub situated in the heart of the city.

Mum and her fellow GWAGS (Gaelic wives & girlfriends) were of course included in the post-game ritual. I relished the chance to be around other kids whose parents spoke with funny accents too.

My siblings and I may have sounded Australian, but we never doubted our Irish status. My first memory of Ireland takes me back to when I was 9 years of age. My younger brother and I were treated to a six-week holiday in the Emerald Isle.

That first trip home was nothing short of magical. I became known around Nenagh as the cartwheeling kid-who sounded like she was from "Home and Away". Up until that point I didn’t know what is like to have an extended family. Interacting with cousins, aunties and uncles was such a welcome novelty.

Being a child in rural Ireland seemed to come with an element of freedom that was missing in my Australian upbringing. I remember being baffled by how long the evenings were. The sun sets relatively early in Perth, meaning play time is usually cut short prematurely.

In Ireland however, I got to stay out on the green with the kids until 9pm. I was also allowed to walk in and out of town with my new found friends sans adult. This sudden surge of independence was a source of great excitement.

I didn’t get to visit Ireland again until I was 16. Round two no doubt reignited my love for the homeland. I became reacquainted with childhood friends. I also got my very first shift at the No-Name disco. More importantly, I got to connect with my relatives again.

Two years later my parents announced that we would be returning to Ireland for good. I was elated. Although I loved so much about Australia, a huge part of my heart always belonged to Ireland.

I have to admit the first year of our big move was harder than I anticipated. I quickly learnt that being on a holiday in a country is very different from actually living there. Over the years I had romanticised Ireland. I never considered the reality of what leaving a sun-soaked country would entail. My first Irish winter certainly challenged any idyllic notions I had previously conceived.

I’m glad I persevered. After a considerable period of adjustment, I went on to have some of the best years of my life thus far. At 19 I moved up to Dublin for college. I refer to this era as my coming of age.

I got a part-time job at a cinema, which was the perfect set up for a movie buff like me. Cinema life also gifted me with an urban family. I was surrounded by a plethora of kind, funny, and supportive individuals.

We tend to hear a lot about what’s wrong with Ireland lately, but I want to take a minute to talk about what’s right with it. Starting with its people. I can say with conviction that no one does humour quite like the Irish. There is something unique about the way we see ourselves and the world around us. This was never more apparent than when I moved abroad.

Our country also has an abundance of kind-hearted people. We dig deep when we can for those who need our help. Just look at the numerous "Go Fund Me" campaigns that have received an astronomical amount of donations.

We’re strong. We fought to legalise gay marriage, and repeal the 8th.

It would be naïve of me to deny that there are aspects of Irish life that need to be improved. But if the results of our recent election suggest anything, it’s that change is imminent.

Two years ago I decided to leave Ireland. I had become restless, viewing Ireland as more of a safety net than an actual home. But that’s changed now. Time coupled with distance can do wonders for your perspective.

Sometimes you have to move away to appreciate what's on your doorstep.

- Fiona Cooney is a journalism graduate with a passion for writing human interest pieces.

The author, Fiona Cooney
The author, Fiona Cooney

This submission is part of an ongoing digital initiative on irishexaminer.com called Personal Insights.As part of the Personal Insights initiative we are asking readers, creative writing groups and writing enthusiasts in general to share personal essays chronicling an experience which has impacted their lives and any learnings from that life experience they would like to share with a wider audience.The essays should be sent directly to the executive editor for news and digital, Dolan O’Hagan, at dolan.ohagan@examiner.ie for consideration.Please note all submissions should be given the subject line ‘Personal Insights submission’ to ensure they are picked up and should include any related imagery and a contact telephone number.Only submissions which meet the Irish Examiner’s own strict journalistic, ethical and legal guidelines will be considered for publication.The Irish Examiner reserves the right to edit submissions in line with those guidelines and before publication direct contact will be made with the person who has submitted the content.No payment will be made for submissions and our decision as regards publication is final.Our goal is to publish one submission per week and use all our powers to make sure it is seen by as wide an audience as possible.We look forward to reading your stories.

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