Dublin: a state of mind

Dublin is as much a state of mind as it is a city’
Tom MacDonagh


It is, that I can tell you for sure. Dublin has a way of getting under your skin. In a good way and in a lesser way. Dublin is Dublin is Dublin, but sadly Irishness is disappearing from the city.

“We have always found the Irish a bit odd.
They refuse to be English”
Winston Churchill

Now I hope you won’t mind me referring to Dubliners as ‘we’. This year I’m celebrating my 10th anniversary in Ireland and I’ve become more than just a ‘Plastic Paddy’. Dublin’s in my heart and in my blood, it has been for over 2 decades, and now that I’m here that long, I think, breathe and live like any other Dubliner or Irish citizen. We differ on one thing only: I don’t drink alcohol. Lots of medication is on my daily menu, so I’m mad enough as is and I don’t have to add more chemicals to my system to act all funny.

So anyway, we’re turning into a more European kind of big city. Criminality-wise, financially, economically. Our culture is still distinctive though with our Celtic and pagan past. We’re still quite capable of being a cultural wonder; you only have to visit one of the many, many museums in Ireland to know that our past is littered with amazing art and artifacts. We have the greatest writers with the best stories (like Bram Stoker’s Dracula; James Joyce’s Ulysses  and many more) but we also have the worst history you can imagine.

We’re still singing Irish traditional songs in pubs; we’re still cheering loudly for our Gaelic football teams, our hurling and rugby teams. And we’re still too optimistic for our own good. Remember Euro 2012? Yes… the one where Ireland failed to win its four matches… now that was disappointing! But what was not was the way we went about it. Remember the way ‘Fields of Athenry’ was sung 10min straight at the end of the game against Spain, even after just losing it with 4-0? Yes… we lost out, but we captured the hearts of soccer fans all over the world. Now ain’t that grand?

“For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad.”
G. K. Chesterton

Sadly though Dublin is not all joy and laughter. There’s an increasing amount of beggars on the streets that lost their house, their job, their everything. There’s also more violence; only last week a local girl had part of her nose bitten off while being out for a drink. There’s less police on the streets and there’s a growing drugs scene with dealers who are openly selling their stuff in streets where lots of tourists walk. There’s more gun crime and sexual violence. We still leave our doors unlocked though during the day, something which we don’t really do anymore in my native country.

With the Irish recession now in its 4th year, people are turning to desperate measures to finance their life. We all lived above our means during the Celtic Tiger. The tiger now lost its roar as well as its existence, and it’s not likely that we’ll return to that kind of decadent living anytime soon. However, tourists coming to Ireland have the travel-guide-image of Dublin and Ireland in their head, where everything is cheap (only if you shop in Aldi or Lidl), where we’re all singing (OK we half are), where there is no crime (only if you close your eyes) and where everyone is friendly like you’ve never experienced in your life (maybe that’s a 75% fact, the other 25% are foreigners who did not learn how to say thank you to the bus driver). So yes, Dublin has become just like your average European city, warts and all.

Despite all that, I cannot get Dublin and Ireland from under my skin. I’ve known the city and the country before it started going pear-shaped and it was heaven on earth. I’ve seen and experienced the friendliness, the willingness to talk and the joie de vivre. And maybe because me mam taught me to be friendly always, I fit in well. Straightaway I blended into daily life, in its culture, in its state of being without any trouble at all. It felt like I had moved streets instead of having crossed two seas and a big island. This was where I had always dreamed of living, and I couldn’t believe how easy moving countries was.

“Moderation, we find, is an extremely difficult
thing to get in this country.”
Flann O’Brien

Irish people… they truly are a class apart. They refuse to accept that maybe drinking a bit less would be more advisable if they want to live a long and illness-free life, in fact they refuse to think that alcohol can ever be bad, full stop. Despite the massive hangovers and loss of money they’re facing the following day. They refuse to accept that rains can be good but if anything, it’s a great way to start a conversation with total strangers.

They also refuse to protest on the street in front of the Dáil until they absolutely cannot see any other way out of the mess we’re all living in. For that reason you will see a few protest marches in the week leading up to the Budget announcement, but as soon as it’s delivered, the Irish stay at home and moan about it in bars. They’d rather sit back in a pub and talk about why they should go on strike or why they should protest, Irish people just love to moan from their couches. And they refuse to wear a watch or stick to the agreed time to meet.

Yes… trying to arrange meeting up with an Irish person can be rather… testing. Buses never run on time, trains never run on time, people will be ‘alright’ with having to wait for you so why wear a watch or why hurry? Those that do wear one seem to forget they’re actually wearing one. “We’ll get there eventually…” Me however, having been brought up to be on time once you’ve agreed to meet up at a certain time… hhmm… I sense a bit of a need for German punctually in me that needs to be dealt with.

“The Irish do not want anyone to wish them well;
they want everyone to wish their enemies ill.”
Harold Nicolson

It’s not the first time I write about Irish people simply because I keep finding them an oddity, even after almost 10 years of living here. They’re firmly stuck under my skin also because they add so much joy to my life, and I learned how to have the gift of the gab from them. And how to sing, even when we’re losing. This morning I ended up having a brilliant chat with two local lads and their mam, and it was great bouncing off ideas about what’s happening to Ireland and to our local community. I truly hope I will meet them again because people like this… they’re a blessing!

“The Irish: be they kings, or poets, or farmers,
they’re a people of great worth.
They keep company with the angels,
and bring a bit of heaven here to earth.”


Am I married I hear you thinking? God no! I’ve had 3 Irish boyfriends, one I loved, one I ended up hating and one I just didn’t feel anything for. I’ll always love Irish people though, even the men who seem to have a mortal fear of commitment. I suppose a catholic upbringing and the way divorce is handled in Ireland is to blame. Four years of separation and only then you can file for divorce! Hello?!? No wonder our Gaelic men dread the ring about to be put on their finger! There used to be a saying that ‘for every man in Dublin there are 6 girls’, so you can understand their desire to test all 6 of them, some even quadrupled that amount just to be sure they were doing the right thing. Kid-in-a-sweets-shop-thing as you can imagine.

One of my own favorite quotes is that ‘I would marry Ireland if I could marry Ireland’ and I mean that. Unfortunately in the real world you have to marry an Irishman, be of Irish descent or have yourself naturalized to become an Irish citizen. I failed the first way of becoming Irish and the second way will also never happen because none of my family is of Irish descent, so I will have to get myself naturalized to get an Irish passport. Maybe I should try the first way to become Irish after all…? Maybe I shouldn’t have given up on Irish men? So from this day forward, if you are a good, strong and honest country lad, I am taking application letters. Please inbox me if you are serious about getti… nah… too much hard work!

“The heart of an Irishman is nothing but his imagination”
George Bernard Shaw

I’ve two favorite Irish songs, one about Dublin which I can’t find the lyrics for nor do I remember who wrote and sings it, and the second song is about Ireland. ‘Song for Ireland’ perfectly describes what I feel for this Emerald Isle. “Dreaming in the night I saw a land where no man had to fight. Waking in your dawn I saw you crying in the morning light.”

Absolutely… this is not a country that should have been butchered by 700 years of foreign dominance. Our history is to cry over, such horrendous acts of violence against Irish people, its culture and the country have happened. I’ve read Ireland’s history with tears in my eyes and not being able to sleep because of what I had been reading. But it’s so easy to believe in God if you watch a sunrise on a cold morning on a Kerry beach. Or if you see a sunset in Connemara or the Wicklow Mountains. It’s so easy to believe in a higher power if you feel and see the beauty of Ireland, warts and all.

“Though the last glimpse of Erin with sorrow I see,
Yet wherever thou art shall seem Erin to me;
In exile thy bosom shall still be my home,
And thine eyes make my climate wherever we roam.”
Thomas Moore

History has made Irish people the way they are today and that’s why Ireland and Dublin are still so close to my heart. It’s in me when I hear ‘Song for Ireland’ or ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’ (The Soldier’s Song, the Irish national anthem) before rugby or football games. It’s in me when my friends are late again and I have to giggle when they tell me why their late. And it has been in me from early on in my teenage years. A love like that… hard to shed. Of course, if anything would happen to my family, I’d leave Ireland, but it won’t be easy. In the meantime, I keep Dublin, and Ireland, tightly under my skin. It’s where it belongs. Because Dublin, it really is a state of being.

This is a great video about Dublin and why people love it so much: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4c7dOJkxdM

Rugby video: http://youtu.be/ElMEi_TlPmM

Wonderful video about Ireland: http://youtu.be/2iUPb7y0hgE

Fields of Athenry, Ireland vs Spain in Gdansk Euro 2012: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuOYYHLZEQk

© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2012. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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