As a completely unique Diaspora initiative, we are often asked by foreign organisations looking to replicate a similarly successful plan, “what is it about the Irish Diaspora that makes them want to claim their Irish heritage?” This seems to be a common challenge many countries face - their Diaspora has little motivation to maintain a relationship with their country of origin.
There is no denying that a strong desire to embrace their Irish heritage is at the heart of successfully connecting people with their Irish place of origin. In order for people to be motivated to claim their Irish identity – Irishness itself must be understood and valued as something to aspire to.
Irish values such as sincerity, sense of community, integrity and partriotism, combined with a fun-loving and charismatic personality, have never been so internationally visible, and commented on, as during these European Football championships in France. Irish values have been on display on Youtube and other social media, and even in mainstream media, since the start of the Euros 2016. Both Italy and France have dedicated broadsheet spreads to the attributes of the Irish fans abroad and both have firmly agreed that it is these values, that are culturally ingrained in Irish people of all ages, that distinguishes the Irish fans from every other nation participating in the competition.
It’s not all piety – there is a fair amount of devilment in the stories coming back from the continent too, and this gives a certain amount of humanity and honesty to the reports. In typical Irish fashion – we’d be suspicious if it was all halos and goodness.
Ireland Reaching Out received an email from a gentleman in Holland who, having encountered first-hand the Irish fans in France, felt compelled to write to us:
“Last week I visited Paris and Cologne for a business trip and did not realize that I would meet Irish supporters singing in the Metro to their Swedish mates. What a joy. We saw the movies on Youtube with Irish supporters singing to the Police, to a Swedish wife, picking up their own litter.
We had a discussion tonight with my children and wife. How on earth is this possible? What do the Irish have that the rest of Europe seems to miss. Having fun, and taking care of each other and the rest of the town.
So, I was wondering. Is it possible for my children to be adopted by an Irish family, is it possible for a country to be adopted by Ireland. Is it possible for the Irish to take care of Europe and the rest of the world? Next year we will visit Ireland to see with our own eyes where civilization starts.”
So the bottom line is that having a nation that lives everyday by values that are aspirational, and above all caring and considerate, is the best possible reason for the Irish Diaspora to aspire to connect back. For us, It makes the job of inviting people with Irish ancestry to re-engage with their place of origin a joyous experience and one that is met with genuine interest and curiousity.
To every Irish person living abroad, to every person who proudly claims their Irish ancestry and incorporates elements of Irishness in their everyday lives – thank you for making Ireland a place that people want to connect home with. Long may it last.