Commentary

When Being Irish Just Isn’t Enough

There was an interesting article on Fox News by Connor Grennan as it concerns his father (born in Ireland) and his Irish identity.

Connor grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY and hated the fact that his father had a thick Irish accent. He wanted to hide from the world because of it.  Several times, Connor even said that he could have actually died from embarrassment.

In one sense, Connor’s Irish identity made him feel like an ‘outsider’ of sorts.

But ‘things change’ (as ‘they’ say).

Connor’s embarrassment all ended on St. Patrick’s Day in 1986 – when his school had parent-teacher conference day.  This meant his father was going to meet his teachers and classmates.

Oh no…

This one girl, who was Connor’s crush, asked him (Connor) with enthusiasm and excitement if his father was actually Irish Irish.  Connor nearly melted on spot as she never looked at him that way before.

Guess that’s the luck of the Irish right there.

In all seriousness, what is the relationship between Irish Irish and just plain old Irish?

I can sympathize with Connor’s identity ‘crisis’.  Growing up in Boston, I always identified with being Irish.  However, now that I’m actually living among ‘real’ Irish people in Ireland, I’m no longer as Irish as used to be (at least it’s more difficult for me to claim so).

Other questions that popped into my head include: what does being Irish mean anyways?;  Is it not possible for an Irish American to be equally Irish with natives of Ireland?;  Does the difference really boil down to just one’s accent?

Complicated questions with no simple answers.

© Craig Considine

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4 thoughts on “When Being Irish Just Isn’t Enough

  1. It’s funny, I’ve asked myself that same question from time to time. I am Irish in that I have grown up in Ireland, I was born in Donegal and I have an Irish accent. I am however half south American, Argentinian, I’ve an Argentinian surname and I’ve sallow skin, dark hair and eyes but apart from being proud to be half Argentinian, I’ve never felt less Irish. I met a guy in Cork one time, he was Polish, I would never have taken him for anything but Irish because he spoke English with a perfect thick Cork accent. It’s funny, the accent seems to say heaps alright!

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  2. It’s interesting to see the impact of accents in our conceptions of Irish identity. Certainly the religious element in Irishness has fallen over the years. My landlord said something interesting (and sad) once. He said a Nigerian man will never be accepted as Irish – even their children, born in Ireland, cannot be ‘fully’ Irish because of the colour of their skin. On the other hand, for many Americans, Muslims cannot be ‘fully’ American either. Such is the crisis of national identities.

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