Monday 18 February 2019

'Leaving Ireland is complicated but coming home to the same reasons that made you stay abroad isn't simple'

Cups of tea and Irish mammies are only a small part of what makes us Irish. Bigger questions need to be asked, and answered.

Ticket to ride: A short film captured the emotion of Ireland’s mass emigration, but while our 20-somethings are sad to leave, will they be happy to come back?
Ticket to ride: A short film captured the emotion of Ireland’s mass emigration, but while our 20-somethings are sad to leave, will they be happy to come back?

Dave Tynan

Dave Tynan wrote and directed Just Saying, a short film about loving our capital city yet having to leave it.

 It became a viral hit after being viewed 250,000 times in one week, and has just been chosen as one to watch by the Tribeca Film Festival. He has moved back to Dublin after living in London and writes about his 'emigration' film,  experiences of life aboard  and our Irish identity.

'If I knew exactly why Just Saying worked, I'd dig out that formula every time. I can have a few guesses why Irish people went for it. It was well made; the cast and crew were professionals even if I wasn't. The film went online just after Christmas so it got people in their tender hangover spot. It found them with one hand on the laptop and the other at the end of a tin of Roses.

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I always thought of the film as a hundred different people, all let down and walking home after a night out. That's why the place names are spread out across the city. "He goes arseways to get to George's Street" feels like the most Irish comment left on the YouTube page.

We didn't tell ourselves that we wouldn't have to leave, we were told that by an older generation.

We didn't make the mess but we had to leave it and find somewhere else to live. It felt like the place emptied out so it didn't matter whether you stayed or went, either way something was getting torn up.

There was a mountain of coverage about what was happening but that didn't deal with what it felt like. Just Saying was what it felt like to me.

I think it worked because people get sad in airports. People cry in airports at Christmas and Irish airports are rammed at that time of year.

I'd lived in London for a few years and I hadn't been able to get funding to make Just Saying at home.

Read more: Irish grandparents emigrate to Australia and are reunited with family in Brisbane Airport

People think that's strange. That's not strange.

The people who make decisions about what films get funded weren't the people the film was for.

I came back home for a few months to make the film with crowdfunding. Then I booked my Sail'n'Rail ticket back to the UK before the film went online.

I packed my bags while Just Saying racked up 250,000 views in a week.

It got labeled an emigration film. I didn't intend it as that but if you put Emmet Kirwan [the star of Just Saying] on the boat in the final scene, then that's what happens.

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The plan wasn't to talk about emigration. It was more that emigration had bullied its way into every conversation. Let's say too that this is one kind of leaving; we're not talking about the hundreds of Libyans every week dying to make it to Italy. It wasn't close to that.

I've been back in Dublin over a year now. Leaving is complicated so coming home isn't that simple either.

I haven't missed London as much as I expected. Big cities don't care about you but they're good for you. Your days get faster, tougher and louder. It's a wake-up call living in England; we think about them a lot more than they think about us.

London's a good place to hear "I'd love to visit Ireland" from nice people who don't mean it in the slightest. We believe in the breadth of wherever we go but it's easy to take your own city for granted. I grew up in the city centre. I'm back there now and I've heard horses' hooves outside while writing this. I know I get more out of my day here. I know I laugh more here.

Read more: Twin sisters on different continents: Distance made us stronger

Ask some people "what it means to be Irish" and they make a face like they've smelled something that came out of a dog. Maybe they're the ones to trust. The rest of us are happy as pigs in shit to talk about what being Irish means. We grab at cheap definitions like enjoying a cup of tea. If you think the Irish have a monopoly on loving a cup of tea, then you might not be old enough to have hot drinks.

It's two days after Paddy's Day. The food-colouring tycoons made a killing globally and at home there's a lot of people still hungover reading this. Or not reading this. Two-day hangovers don't leave you thirsty for articles about Irish identity.

We can be sensitive even without a hangover: someone calls an Irish celebrity British and we go crazy every time. I like a bit of Twitter hysterics myself but whatever celebrity it was, they're probably grand. If Niall Horan doesn't get any sleep, it's not for being called British. Maybe we could worry about something else.

If you know what being Irish means, then you're one step ahead of me. But we can say some of what it means to be Irish right now.

Being Irish might well mean not living in Ireland.

It certainly means you can't get married in this country if you're gay.

Read more: There's no place like home for Christmas

If it's not a yes majority in the referendum, it feels like we're saying to gay people "oh yeah 'course, you're a bit equal… just not that equal."

Did we peak in moral authority at the exact moment the Bible got written? Did we know everything then? Maybe it's grand if the traditional concept of marriage changed. Maybe we've learned a bit more decency and empathy since.

The Irish mammy is the first thing we crow about when Irishness comes up. She's kindness beyond reason. She's demented with generosity. She's all that's good about us but it wasn't long ago that the Irish mammy couldn't keep her job in the bank after she got married. She couldn't refuse to have sex with her husband. Our law said that if her husband raped the Irish mammy then it wasn't rape. That's how we've treated Irish mammies.

Before anyone is an Irish mammy she's an Irish woman and Irish women haven't had any say in the treatment of their own bodies. Repealing the Eighth Amendment would help acknowledge that.

Read more: The pain of emigration most affects the mothers left behind

I'm a straight white man and [I know] we'd want to listen to more than straight white men. They've had plenty of say so far in what being Irish means.

You'd hope that if you lived abroad and you thought about coming back, a few improvements had been made while you'd been gone.

You'd hope the country had removed some of the most backward reasons that made you stay abroad. We have to be able to give people what they can have in all those countries they can work in without needing so much as another language.

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Are there brilliant things about being Irish?

There's no question we shine. There are Irish traits we should be very proud of, but I reckon we've been talking about them for long enough and we might have identified them all by now. It's the bits that need fixing that are worth talking about. We're always talking."

Irish Independent

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