“Sons and daughters of the Gael, wherever you be today, in the name of the motherland, greetings. Whatever flag be the flag you guard and cherish, it is consistent with your highest duty to link yourselves together to use your united strength to break the chains that bind our sweet sad mother — and never before have the scattered children of Eire had such an opportunity for noble service. Today you can serve not only Ireland but the world.”
Éamon de Valera, early St. Patrick’s Day message
My husband, Frank, has been working on a film project of late, another documentary in the same vein as the “140” project he did in 2010. It’s called “I Am Ireland,” and it is a project that hopes to give a voice to the thousands of Irish folks who have left their homeland in search of a better future. It is, of course, a story that is near and dear to us, because we have lived it. Even I, an American, feel its importance very deeply, not just because I married an Irish immigrant, and had two Irish babies immigrate as well, but also because I spent all those years on Irish soil, trying, struggling, to make a whole new life for myself in a new world. I can relate to the loneliness, the frustration, the excitement, the promise, the disillusionment and the feelings of prolonged unrest one feels in making such a huge leap of faith.
So, what is the project, exactly? Well, you can refer to Frank’s blog for plenty of details, but the gist of it is this – we want Irish ex-pats to send us their stories, via smartphone video clips, to be edited into a feature-length picture of what it means to be Irish in a different country. You can talk as long or as little as you want. If all you want to do is say, “I left Ireland in 1999 and I never looked back,” that is fine. Or if you want to say, “I left Ireland six months ago and boy what a journey, c’mere ’til I tell ya… <insert 15 minutes of riveting Irish storytelling>” that is great, too. We want to see your faces. We want to know who you are, why you left, what it’s been like, what people don’t understand. There have been countless documentaries, TV shows, movies, articles, books and recordings of Irish immigration in the 19th and 20th century, stories of teary goodbyes in Belfast and Cork and Dublin, “wakes” held by family and friends who never thought they’d see their loved ones again after they emigrated. But what is it like now? Perhaps it will even answer some bigger questions, such as why are people still leaving? What can and should Ireland be doing to hold on to her young people?
It can be about Irish men, women and children wherever they’ve moved – Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Poland, the USA… it can be happy or sad. We want to see your faces. It sort of reminds me of a children’s book we love in our house – “The Lonely Beast,” by Irish author/illustrator, Chris Judge. In the darkness of anger and despair and “I just want to go home!” that Frank was feeling last year, this seed of an idea sprung. He was lonely. He wanted to find out what other Irish “beasts” were out there, and what they thought of this whole upheaval of their souls in pursuit of a more secure income.
It is also absolutely worth mentioning that next year is 2016 – exactly one century will have gone by since the Easter Rising of 1916, which was one of the most pivotal events in the entire history of Ireland. It was a rebellion I did not understand myself until I had lived in Ireland for some time, and sought out the answers to my somewhat spotty and ambiguous Irish history recollections. The Easter Rising is a moment – six violent days, actually – of a battle for freedom that brings most Irish a great deal of pride, and continues to drive them forward in their personal and political battles at home and abroad. Next year will be full of 1916 commemorations, and the hope is that “I Am Ireland” will find its place among them.
The remains of the Dublin Bread Company at 6-7 Lower Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) after the Easter Rising in 1916. Photo courtesy of the National Library of Ireland on the Commons (Flickr)
Here’s the thing – Frank has gotten a great response, in terms of interest. He’s even been interviewed twice on Irish radio (always a bit tricky with an 8 hour time difference!). Everyone seems to think this is a great idea! But we’re still lacking in actual submissions. He’s set a deadline for the end of this month, and would like to have at least 20 – 40 “testimonials” as it were. We’re not asking for money, or anything weird like that – just a few honest minutes of your time. If you’re an Irish ex-pat reading this – please! Send him your stuff. Break the ice. We’d be so so delighted. And if you have friends or family who are Irish and living abroad, pass the word along! Invite them to be part of a really special, historic piece of work. And I promise, it’s bound to be good craic, too.
Here are some quick instructions/tips, and of course, feel free to contact me or Frank about “I Am Ireland” at any time!