The Irish Times has published extended interviews with eight Boston residents of Irish ancestry who have never been to Ireland. Reporter Rosita Boland notes that probably most of the tens of millions of Irish-Americans are not “economically privileged” enough to cross the Atlantic. Or maybe the state of mind is more important than the physical journey.
“I discovered that when Irish-Americans talk about identifying with the Irish they mean the Irish who came to settle in the United States and their descendants, not those of us living in Ireland,” she writes. “Ireland itself, the country, is the abstract, romanticized receptacle of dreams and green fields, and the place that will soothe a lifelong ache.”
I’ve been fortunate enough to make six trips to Ireland and Northern Ireland over the past 16 years. Reading the Times‘ piece sent me back to my first story about Ireland after my initial visit in May 2000. It began:
COBH, Ireland — I traveled here for Nora and William, as much as for myself.
Like millions of Irish, my mother’s parents emigrated from this harborside village near Cork, in southern Ireland, to a new life in America, never returning to the family or country they left behind. Like many Irish-Americans, I arrived here years later with a desire to walk the same waterfront, returning to where I never set out, exploring the first half of my hyphenated heritage.