Ireland never lets go of an Irish heart. The further we go from our homeland, the stronger it calls us home. French Canadians were never known for singing maudlin ballads lamenting the day they left Paris.
English immigrants to Australia were not known to weep out of a heartfelt yearning for Suffolk. Yet we Irish experience an emotional pang for our homeland like no other nation. This yearning has been documented again and again down the centuries, in rhyme and in song.
The kids are happy in England. We live in a peaceful village by the sea. Their little school is lovely and they have many friends. We see friends and family from Ireland regularly, since Cork and Dublin are but an hour’s flight from our local airport. There is more sunshine and more peace here than there was in Dublin. Yet, after a year and a half on the idyllic Isle of Wight, the siren of Erin visits them with ever increasing regularity, it seems
I know she has been in the night when the one of the kids awakens, with a faraway look in their eyes, recounting a vivid dream of having been back in our old house in Cork, surrounded by family and friends. “When are we going back to Ireland?” they ask, over breakfast, as tears well softly in their eyes.
Within moments, the tears are forgotten as they rush into another busy and happy day. Yet we parents are left wondering where in the world our family would truly be happiest.
James Joyce called Ireland “the old sow that eats her farrow”.
Although Ireland is, on paper, wealthier than the UK per capita, its economy has been perennially badly managed, resulting in the explosive boom and bust of recent decades.
Those of us who lived through the Celtic tiger years, and the collapse, cannot but feel betrayed by a State which wrecked the economy, then burdened its taxpayers with the debts of foreign bondholders, and then harassed its own citizens – working hard to survive a recession - with taxes and levies to pay for its folly. Many were forced to emigrate. How many will return? Yet nobody returns to Ireland for the weather, nor for good economic governance.
There is something about the people, and the deep landscape, that draws us back. Even those of us in geographically and culturally proximate places like England, Scotland or Wales know that yearning. For me, I sometimes find myself longing to throw a leg over my motorcycle, and ride in to the snowcapped mountains of Kerry, the bike wailing like a banshee along lonely mountain roads. I miss meeting friends for a quiet jar by the fireside in some old pub. I even find myself watching TG4 programmes online, sometimes, drawn back to the Gaeilge. But I can’t remember the Irish word for homesickness. Nor am I even sure of that diagnosis.
The kids’ accents are changing. Sean’s Cork lilt survived two years in Dublin, but it is being slowly submerged by the southern English sounds he hears each day. My one hope was that his accent might survive. I’ve considered flying in Cork election experts for swift restorative action: “Repeat after me: one, two, tree.” As always, our decisions as parents will have a huge and lasting impacts on our children. There is much we love about life here, but the kids’ dreams of Ireland tug at the heartstrings. However, balance is essential. Perhaps next time they have a vivid dream of being at home, I’ll ask them, “was it lashing rain outside, did you notice? Was the postman arriving with a stack of brown envelopes with harps on them, perhaps?”