A friend asked me the other day if I was settled back into Ireland. The question threw me and left me distinctly unsettled – and it took me a while to realise why. I’ve been back in Dublin since December – and I’m pretty settled. I’ve caught up with old friends, got a job, an apartment, updated my Netflix account. The usual.
I have settled back into Dublin, and it has been comfortable and easy, for the most part – like wrapping myself in warm blankets that smell like home. Because Dublin has been my home, more or less, since I was 18. I spent a year in Britain, and nearly 3 in America – so this is actually the third time I’ve moved to Dublin – once in my teens, once in my twenties and now in my thirties, and this is the time I’m probably aware of what I’m getting into. (Someday, I’ll write about the ignorant, arrogant teenager who moved here at 18. Not today though).
So why is this move different? I guess because this is… it. Myself and the husband have made the decision to start settling down. We’re going to (try to!) buy a house, and have kids within the next year or so – which means relative stability for the next five-ten years. And with Brexit now officially happening, my right to live here is – well, not in dire straits, but certainly in mild peril. So to guarantee my rights don’t get fucked with, I’ve made the decision to apply for citizenship as soon as I’m eligible. Making this a pretty damn permanent move.
This in many ways is not that surprising or different. But the thing is, although Dublin has been my home for over 10 years, Ireland hasn’t been. I’m British English, nominally Protestant, and a woman. Ireland has a pretty uneasy relationship with these things – and there have been times when that uneasiness has surfaced into downright nastiness. To be clear, I’ve still had a privileged and relatively charmed life here – I’m aware that many immigrants to Ireland will have experienced significantly more struggles than I have – and many continue to have horrific experiences. But as I made this city my home, this country still wasn’t somehow. I managed to convince myself that I was somehow still apart from it; I used my in-between status as a shield against the things about the country I didn’t like. No, not like a shield. Like blinkers. There have always been elements of this country that don’t sit well with me – but I held myself apart, and reminded myself that this wasn’t my country. I did the same at times in the US – absenting myself from the hard questions because I didn’t have a stake.
Except, of course, I fucking did. I lived there, and paid my taxes, and was part of the system. And I’ve been part of the system here in Ireland for over 10 years now. I’ve always had a stake. And let’s face it, even if I could somehow argue I wasn’t – I’m British. My nation has managed to fuck up a whole bunch of other countries, as well as it’s own – ‘Great Britain’ doesn’t mean the same as ‘Good Britain’ after all. Terrible, but great, as JKR reminds us. I have always been part of a fucked up nation. Saying that, I’m not sure there’s a country in the world that can be 100% proud of its history, even in just the last century. [NB: a friend suggested Iceland, but they banned beer until 1989. That’s some fucked up shit.] We are all from places that are complex and complicit in numerous ways. So maybe we should all call it a draw.
The problem with that is that now, I’m not just accepting I have a stake in Ireland, and should be acknowledging that this is my home country. I’m going all in. I’m getting citizenship. I’m buying property (eventually, please tiny sky fairies). I’m raising a family here. I’m raising an *Irish* family here. So I’m not just settling down into comfy ways and patterns. I’m putting all my shit in one place and planting my flag on top of it. [I don’t have a flag. Maybe I should get one though. I swear I didn’t just google “personal flag” and discover it was the name of a racehorse].
Choosing your citizenship is different to accepting the citizenship of the place you were born or raised. It’s like the difference between getting along with your siblings and choosing a life partner. You love both (in different ways) but a place you choose to give your allegiance to is never the same as a place you were born into. And choosing to spend the rest of your life with someone means choosing ALL the things about them – including their nasty habits, and weird superstitions, and daft ideas about things you never knew you cared about. Choosing a country to make your home in is… kinda the same thing. I choose this country because I love it, in spite of all its flaws. Its flaws are fucking big like. But since I’ve gotten back here, this time, I’m not ignoring them, or absenting myself from the conversation. I’m (trying) to step up and pitch in. I believe abortions should be as early as possible and as late as necessary, that religion has no place in education, that everyone deserves a place to call home and a living wage, that refugees are welcome, and that every person in this country should be valued. If this is going to be my Ireland – and I hope it will be – then I want to be part of making it better.
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