Sunday, 3 June 2018

I walked in the rain and became Irish!

Truly the Kingdom of Kerry is a magical place. I went to Killarney, drank a pint of Guinness, walked in the rain and the next day I was Irish.

As I stroll the rain-sodden streets I wonder whether they chose this town for Citizenship Ceremonies because walking around Killarney is like being dropped into an essential oil of Irishness.

Strains of Wild Rover and Maggie permeate the dripping air.

What could be more Irish than the rain?

It rains soft rain and then it rains summertime rain, with huge wet drops that pierce your clothes as arrows through armour. 

It rains drizzly rain, and then it rains more wet-making rain, and then the wind picks up, lifting the wetness and turning it into sideways rain.

It rains all night and it rains all morning, all afternoon and evening.

Never mind your forty shades of green. Forget Eskimos and all their words for snow.

The Irish have as many for the rain.

There's a power shower in the bathroom of my packed B&B. This is Killarney and Americans demand such things, but the complimentary soap is so tiny it actually fits inside my tummy button - such is the tireless research done for you by this colyoom.

Is this Ireland? A failed attempt to keep Americans happy?

The Full Irish breakfast is delivered by the same smiling Eastern European staff member who checked me in at reception yesterday. She brings me coffee instead of tea, and no butter for the toast, but her smile makes me happy.

Is this Ireland? An immigrant workforce making the best of a bad job?

I’ve a few hours to kill before the Citizenship Ceremony so I drive along  sodden roads listening to Pat Kenny discussing a murder.

Doesn't get more Irish than this, surely?

I'd forgotten the glory of this drive from Killarney to Kenmare, even when pelted by the rain. The road winds and drops to reveal sumptuous lakes and mountains under cloudy veils. Ladies View, Torc waterfall, all the famous spots are simply wonderfully splendidly Irish.

Sitting on a comfy sofa in a tea shop in Kenmare, staring at tourists walking in the rain, I try to decide what to wear for the Citizenship Ceremony.

Although aware of the significance of this day, I feel this is a two-way deal. Of course I want to be Irish, but equally, Ireland must want me too.

I’d rather present the real Charlie Adley, in his t-shirt and jeans, than some trussed up replicant in a shirt and tie.

Beyond the tea shop window, American tourists appear to believe they need six layers of Gore-Tex to protect them. 

Maybe to be truly Irish is to embrace the rain. My dear friend Orla was the first Irish person to tell me, 26 years ago: 

"It won't melt ya!"

How else might an Irish Citizenship Ceremony start but with a queue in the rain?

Inside the INEC centre, right here in the capital of Paddywhackery, the brass band on stage plays those two quintessentially Irish tunes: New York, New York and It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing.

Minister Charlie Flanagan continues the showbiz theme, stepping up to the microphone with a

Helloooo! No, come on, I didn’t hear you! Hellooooo!

He tells us that one day our grandchildren might be so lucky as to officiate at a ceremony like this. Looking around at the thousands of happy faces, I hope many will aim their sights higher than politican.

Then, quite beautifully, he instructs us not to forget the country from which we came.

Your history's not contraband. We welcome your diversity. Bring with you your songs, your music and your stories. If you’re from India and Pakistan, please bring your cricket bats!”

Well, that’s righteously spurned all the Australians, South Africans and West Indians in here, not to mention this Englishman, but the Minister’s message is welcoming, warm and well-intentioned:

Then he performs the sacred rite of talking about Ireland’s 800 year dispossession.

Then we take the oath, and it’s done.

Was there ever a better time for a celebratory whiskey? I walk through the crowds and rain to the nearest bar. Inside there's plenty of thirsty punters but no barman in sight.

Now, that’s Ireland. Or is it? 

Ah here he is!

“Jameson please.”

“We have no Jameson.”

“You are kidding.”


“Okay. Give me a Crested 10, please.”

Top shelf, as it should be today. I'm Irish, but more than that, I’m safe. 

After 26 years in this country, my healthcare, pension and status are no longer at the mercy of incompetents like Gove and Rees-Mug. I didn't want to lose it all.

The clouds are lifting off the mountains. It has stopped raining.

I'm safe. 
I'm Irish.

Unlike the whiskey, it's going to take a while to sink in.


I need to thank the wonderful Katya Okonkwo, of the Galway City Partnership, whose free advice and patience was immeasurably helpful.

Also, thanks to Ann the lawyer, who gave great counsel, stamped all the forms yet took no money. Where else in the world would a lawyer insist that as she had been our neighbour six years previously, she couldn't possibly accept payment? One of the many reasons I love the west of Ireland.  

©Charlie Adley

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