The Irish are a diaspora people... for centuries, they have fled war, famine, poverty, and oppression, both foreign and domestic. They have faced exile and penal transportation. My dad's mom's parents were members of the diaspora- fleeing poverty in the early twentieth century (my great-grandfather had planned to emigrate to Australia, but while he was in San Francisco waiting to embark, the earthquake hit and he, a stonemason, was pressed into service rebuilding the city, actually living in a labor camp but receiving a decent wage, and decided to go back to New York, where he met my great-grandmother). I live in a neighborhood with a large Irish immigrant community, and every summer, we get an influx of young people from Ireland looking to work in construction or the restaurant/bar industry. My upstairs neighbor is an Irish gal raising two wonderful Yankee kids, and my next-door neighbors are Irish. Going to the bank, I overhear guys in paint-spattered pants asking how the craic is. I go to the local butcher to get house-made black pudding. The diaspora continues, though now there is more of a back-and-forth.
One of the watershed moments of the Irish diaspora was the Flight of the Earls, which saw the earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell leaving Ulster to seek help from the Spanish government in an attempt to throw off British sovereignty. The Flight of the Earls looms large in Irish folk history.
This weekend, though, saw a return of the diaspora population as many Irish abroad returned to Eire in order to vote on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Looking at the pictures of returning émigrées, I have to say that the Flight of the Girls is an even more important event in Irish history as the Flight of the Earls (Smut Clyde informed me that this picture was actually taken at a pro "return to vote" performance art piece):
As an aside, I totally want to buy the girl in the glasses and the Ramones T-shirt a shot of Tullamore Dew. Gabba Gabba na Gael!
The Irish people voted overwhelmingly to repeal the Eight Amendment which criminalized abortion. Once again, the population of Ireland has voted overwhelmingly to pursue liberal reforms- the first being the legalization of same-sex marriage. I have a prediction that this liberal vote, in the overwhelmingly Catholic Republic of Ireland, will cause a lot of angst among the right-wingers here in the United States. The Catholic Church in Ireland has been guilty of running a gulag system for young women, complete with forced labor and mass graves- they had lost the moral authority to weigh in on the abortion issue. A lot of Americans view Ireland as some sort of Candyland, toora loora lorra and all that shit. They want Ireland to be trapped in amber, a faraway land inhabited by leprechauns or smurfs. The voters of Ireland, and the emigrant Irish community proved to the world that they are modern, progressive people, people devoted to women's and minority rights.
This being a post about matters Irish, I would be remiss if I didn't post a song... the most appropriate one for this occasion is the haunting The Innocent and the Honest Ones by In Tua Nua:
That song was released thirty years ago- the Tuath na Gael have come a long way in the intervening years.