I’m asked about Irish identity quite often. For descendants of Irish immigrants, especially in melting pot countries, we often look back in time for an identity. So I propose two questions to help address these questions.
Can we define “Irish” by religion? Not so simple, as we can choose our religion. I’ve met Irish descendants who are Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal, Mormon, Baha’i, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, and the list is endless. I like to ask: If my mother was Irish Catholic and my father was Irish Protestant, then what am I? I would say – Irish.
Is it where we are born? Well, let me tell you the story of a gun-ho client of mine. In her enthusiasm for being Irish, this American lady tried to convince security at the airport she was Irish. She had landed back in the USA after a trip to Ireland. Her statement of being Irish with an American passport, didn’t square well with customs. A few choice words later, and a very thorough strip search; she told me from now on, at customs, she’s 100% “American!”
My solution to often sticky questions, like identity, is to understand that none of us can help where we are born, or who our parents were. We can choose what country we live in or what religion we practice. Identity is in the heart. Maybe that’s why in our melting pot countries, we can be Americans or Canadians of Irish, Polish, or Belarus ancestry – all at the same time.