10 million citizens of Ireland left. Here’s why you should visit

10 million citizens of Ireland left.  Here's why you should visit
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(CNN)- with st. St. Patrick’s Day is a global phenomenon and Irish pubs are found everywhere, from Peru to Lanzarote, it can be easy to think you’ve got a taste of Ireland without visiting, especially if you’re one of the 70 million people around the world. world who can claim Irish heritage.

However, to get a real feel for the modern energy of this tiny island nation, you have to visit, and most people start their journey on the streets of Dublin.

It is a compact and walkable capital city, with a low-rise skyline and Georgian granite monuments built on a human scale.

You can follow the River Liffey through the city center from Phoenix Park and Kilmainham Gaol in the west, past the Guinness Storehouse, St Patrick’s Cathedral and Dublin Castle, east to the newly renovated Docklands.

Standing on Butt Bridge, you can see the old and the new: traditional Dublin represented by neoclassical Custom House, and beyond, the new finance towers and cranes sweeping by, showing it ever larger.

Aerial view of the Rosie Hackett Bridge over the River Liffey, City of Dublin.  Tourism Board Brochure

The River Liffey runs through the center of Dublin.

Courtesy of Gareth McCormack

best in europe

At Custom House Quay is one of the city’s newest attractions: the EPIC Irish Emigration Museumwinner of the leading tourist attraction in Europe by the World Travel Awards for the last three consecutive years.

Designed by the same award-winning team as Belfast’s Titanic Museum, it tells the stories of some 10 million people who have left Ireland over the centuries, for reasons ranging from famine to economic necessity, conflict and persecution. religious.

They went to Britain, America, Australia and beyond, building railways and farming frontier lands.

They brought their culture with them, ambassadors of storytelling in their new nations, and created a new Irish mythology abroad. They and their descendants are the diaspora that museums like EPIC want to attract, and in 2013 an Irish tourism initiative, The Gathering, was dedicated to precisely this audience.

Tearful farewells and longed-for returns have become part of the national identity, the arrivals hall at its airports lined with billboards targeting nostalgic expats, hungry for Brennan bread and Tayto chips.

As then-President Mary Robinson put it in 1996, “This grand narrative of dispossession and belonging […] has become, with a certain amount of historical irony, one of the treasures of our society: “It has made the Irish people open to the outside world, strongly Europeanistand it is perhaps this legacy of hardship that makes it one of the The most generous nations in the world when it comes to charitable donations.

music and dance

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The Cobblestone in Smithfield is the best place in town for live traditional music.


Ireland’s best-known cultural export is, of course, the pub, but in pandemic-hit Ireland many have been forced to close for good.

CNN visited The Cobblestone, a North Dublin institution famous for its live traditional music that just won a legal battle allowing him to survive.

“Believe it or not, this being the nation’s capital, there aren’t many places you can go and engage with that aspect of our culture here every day,” said Thomas Mulligan, whose father Tom took over the Smithfield pub. for 30 years. . and turned it into the live music center it is today.

The revival of traditional Irish music became widespread in the 1960s, an emblem of a new national pride in this still young nation, which this year marks 100 years of independence.

Tom Mulligan recently spoke about the Irish History Podcast about the global influences found in traditional music and dance from Ireland, Africa, Spain, the Americas and beyond. “Ireland borrowed, certainly being part of the British Empire and continental Europe, they borrowed back and forth,” she said.

From “Danny Boy” (written by an Englishman) to “The Fields of Athenry”, Ireland’s most famous folk songs have been tales of exile and longing, while the now popular standard “She Moved Through the Fair” was a classic lost that only became popular again in Ireland after being rediscovered in America.

Similarly, country music is so popular in Ireland that it has its own sub-genre: Country ‘n’ Irish. Riverdance was also a Chicago-born Irish-American global phenomenon.

the literary tradition

Modernity and transformation have changed a lot here, but they haven’t changed the parts of Dublin life that make this city what it is, and the institutions on whose history it grew and still rests.

Trinity College, founded in 1592, is the oldest university in Ireland. The Brian Boru Harp, the oldest in Ireland and the model for the country’s insignia, is housed in Trinity College’s spectacular Long Room Library, which also houses the 9th century Gospel manuscript “The Book of Kells”.

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Richard Quest meets James Joyce impersonator John Shevlin (left) at Bewley’s cafe.

Ireland prides itself on its storytelling traditions: it has given birth to four Nobel Prize winners for Literature: WB Yeats, GB Shaw, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney, although all but one of them lived to the end of their lives in foreign lands.

Two of Ireland’s most celebrated writers, Oscar Wilde and James Joyce, were once outcasts and exiles, lambasted for outrages on what was then considered public decency.

Anglo-Irish artist Francis Bacon, a giant pioneer of contemporary art, left Ireland for England as a teenager: an openly gay man at a time when it was illegal on both islands, he would not have been easily accepted into society at home. he homeland for much of his life.

But as with Wilde and Joyce, he has been embraced posthumously. The entire contents of his artist’s studio were acquired by Dublin’s Hugh Lane Gallery, where he was reassembled as it was when Bacon was creating his legendary works of art. It is one of the best kept secrets in the city and, best of all, admission is free.

swim in the ocean

Although Joyce spent much of his life in continental Europe, his greatest work, the modernist classic “Ulysses,” which also celebrates its centenary this year, is a love letter to his hometown, an odyssey that follows one man, Leopold Bloom, on a day trip through Dublin.

The opening scenes of the novel take place in a Martello tower on the waterfront in the southern suburb of Sandycove, now a James Joyce museum and a place of pilgrimage for fans who celebrate Bloomsday on June 16 each year.

The area is a popular site for bathers, and swimming in the sea has become increasingly popular since Covid hit.

Celebrities are even getting involved. Harry Styles was spotted this week taking a dip in nearby Vico Baths, following in the footsteps of Matt Damon, who turned up there in 2020 after he and his family were on lockdown due to Covid in the area.

CNN joined local group The Ripple Effect for an early morning swim off the 40-foot promontory.

“During the lockdown, a lot of people couldn’t get together inside, so a lot of people started connecting outside,” explains member Katie Clark. “It was just a good place to come and rediscover the sea.”

As for the band’s name, fellow member Mandy Lacey says, “The Irish love to help people! It’s in our nature. I think The Ripple Effect is an Irish thing. It’s part of our history. Whether we go through hard times, good times, everyone is there to really support each other.”

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Swimming in the sea is becoming more and more popular.

Those who stayed, those who left

Earlier this year, British filmmaker Kenneth Branagh won an Oscar for “Belfast,” a semi-autobiographical film about his childhood in Northern Ireland before the 30-year conflict known as The Troubles forced his family to flee to England. It ends with the dedication: “For those who stayed. For those who left. And for all those who were lost.”

But whereas in centuries past, farewells often meant permanent exile, now it’s a door that swings both ways.

Many Irish expats, reassessing their priorities in the wake of the pandemic, have returned home to a new life with their young families. And as has always been the case, returnees bring the experience and knowledge they have gained abroad, which can help their home country prosper.

In 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote, and it is now far from the homogeneously Catholic country of the popular imagination. This nation of emigrants has also grown rich in recent decades through immigration. There is a new confidence in this modern and increasingly multi-cultural Ireland.

Ireland has changed a lot since it was hailed earlier this century as the ‘Celtic Tiger’. What followed was a decade or more of great economic growth and great optimism. Now, like the rest of the world, Ireland is searching for its post-pandemic purpose.

But, as history has shown, this small, young nation can do it by looking first at each other and then at the rest of the world.

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