Ireland, a love story

Clean Coasts Love Your Coast Competition 2019_Martina Gardiner_M

“You will be back in 3 months time” my dad said. “Ireland is a third world country.”

He was a truck driver in the 1980s, delivering goods to Ireland when the country was in recession and likened the country to one that was in chaos and in serious economic trouble. Understandably he thought that as a Belgian girl, I would miss certain things that come for granted in a rich, industrialized country.

The Ireland of 2002 was not a third world country anymore, in fact it never was. In 2002, the country’s economy was booming and tenderly called the ‘Celtic Tiger.’ For a while, it had the lowest unemployment in Europe, but when it fell into recession in 2008, we suddenly became the country with the highest number in unemployed people.

From boom to bust.

Totally bust.

Either way, 3 months passed. Six months. A year. Three years. Six years.

On the 31st of October it’ll be 10. I am still living in Ireland and enjoying it so much I want to marry Ireland if I could marry a country as rich in culture, as soft and tender in nature, as happy and talkative as its inhabitants.

My love for Ireland knew no bounds and it still doesn’t, though I have dropped my picturesque views. Instead I adopted a realistic outlook on everything Irish. A lot of foreign people have this old, romantic view of Ireland but this does not apply anymore. Dublin is just like any other European city these days. But that did not stop me from staying in love with this green, lush island of Ireland.

“Dublin was turning into Disneyland with super-pubs,
a Purgatory open till five in the morning.”
(Joseph O’Connor, “Two Little Clouds”)

“Ireland is a peculiar society in the sense that it was a nineteenth century society up to about 1970 and then it almost bypassed the twentieth century.”
(John McGahern)

In fact, if Ireland was a man, I’d chase him to the tip of Kerry, the top of Donegal and down to the sunny south east in Wexford. I’d chase him and make him marry me but unfortunately Ireland is not a man, and I am not the type to chase men to make them love me. I want them to chase me instead, to conquer my heart and to show me that their love is the real thing and that my current situation is not standing in our way of happiness together (that sounds rather old-fashioned doesn’t it, but I’m such a romantic fool!)

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” and I couldn’t agree more. As a teen and in my twenties I knew that my dream of living in Ireland would become reality sooner rather than later. I was solely responsible for creating my own reality, of making my dreams come true… for myself, by myself. Especially for myself.

On she went, and her maiden smile
In safety lighted her round the Green Isle;
And blest forever was she who relied
Upon Erin’s honour and Erin’s pride.
(Thomas Moore)

Love, as I used to know it during the course of my 10 years in Ireland, became a fight with myself. I feared that my illness would stand in the way of finding a new boyfriend. Whatever the reasons for breaking up before, whatever the joy of having Irish boyfriends, they were not the reason for me staying in Ireland.

I learned that I don’t have to be attached to someone in order to enjoy life in Ireland; I’ve been single for a while now and it suits me fine. But never say never, so if there are any geeks out there who would fancy getting to know a Belgian lass with a big Irish heart, I’m your girl! (Applications: email me please! :D)

Several Irish people have told me in the past that I am Irish and perhaps even more Irish than some Irish people. Those compliments mean the world to me. I’ve got an Irish accent, phrases and slang that come with living here so long. And I am proud of it. Ya feckin’ better believe it!

“Irishness is not primarily a question of birth or blood or language;
it is the condition of being involved in the Irish situation,
and usually of being mauled by it.”
(Conor Cruise O’Brien)

Of course I want to have the Irish nationality, but this might be difficult to obtain. Being legally Irish or maybe have a dual nationality, is perhaps my other big dream but that is something that needs to be discussed with my mum and something that might never happen.

To quote dear Eleanor again: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”  You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Once again so true!

I had my life in Ireland completely figured out when I moved over here. I was going to finish my 2-year contract with the company I worked for, pack up and move to the west of Ireland and find myself an Irish lad there who would love me and marry me. Silly dream, isn’t it?

I used to be a big dreamer, a very big dreamer of all things foolish and romantic. But life rarely turns out the way you want it to. I stayed with the company for seven years, until I was forced to retire early. I didn’t find a farmer in the west but ended up in two more relationships  with Dubliners, each with their own character and their own faults. In between all that I ended up with MS.

So you can tell… life turned out the opposite of what I had hoped for, but it didn’t put me off. Not in a million years. I still want to move to the countryside, find myself a decent, intelligent and wise Irish man but for now I am happy enough. Happy enough to be so excited about being here 10 years on October 31st.

In Ireland I became the person who I was meant to be, in Ireland I found myself.

So 3 months passed, 3 years, 6 years, 9 years and every time I hear the words my dad said “You’ll be back after 3 months!” For once he was wrong, and I’m glad he was!

“When I die Dublin will be written in my heart.”
(James Joyce)

Related articles where James Joyce is mentioned:

Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim 2012

© 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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