Although it was over thirty five years ago I can still remember the moment as if it was yesterday.
I opened the envelope with the London postmark and took out a truly beautiful document.
It was a small booklet green in colour with inlaid gold writing on the front and the image of a harp.
That was the day the Irish embassy in London sent me my passport.
I read every line in it, but the words that mean everything to me were saoránach d’Éirinn (citizen of Ireland).
I was twenty and, at that point, I hadn’t travelled out with this archipelago.
Accompanied by my little green introduction to the world I would more than make up for that in the following decade.
By the time I was thirty my Irish passport has attracted friendly nods of welcome and cheerful acknowledgments anytime I had proffered it at airports and border checkpoints anywhere in the world.
Well except that there was this one time on the Border in Fermanagh…
Ach mar a deitear sin e sceal eile!
Of course I qualify for a British passport, but I’ve never applied for one.
Being born in Glasgow was an accident of birth and in circumstances of some tragedy.
As soon as I could think of such matters Glasgow, Scotland, Britain never felt like home, it was just someplace that I happened to be.
Ireland was always home.
Unlike Britain we’re a small island that people still listen to.
The cultural reach of Irishness has not been spread by imperialism, invasion or plantation, but by ourselves alone and across the world today people celebrate their connections to Ireland.
As you will no doubt be aware dear reader-if you are regular visitor here- that it is my contention that there remains a lack of adequate cultural space for Irishness in Scotland.
However, it is changing and that makes me smile inside.
Recently I was in my native city as part of the Saint Patrick’s festival activities.
This showcase for Irishness in Glasgow becomes stronger and more popular every year.
At the same time the old klan sub culture is in retreat in the city and one day that belief system will be as dead as the football club that gave them a home over a century.
Retreat does not, of course, mean vanished completely.
However, bit by bit the habitat for anti-Irish racism in Scotland is being removed.
Moreover I believe that the conviction of Rangers podcaster David Limond last year was an important landmark on that journey.
However Scotland must not just punish racists like Mr Limond, but also must be about the important work of celebrating Irishness in Alba.
The memorial to An Gorta Mór in Glasgow remains a work in progress with some fine chaps attempting to neutralise the project in the consultative meetings.
However they will fail and I am confident that finally Scotland’s greatest city will acknowledge the suffering of the Irish holocaust and the ongoing contribution made by their descendants on Clydeside.
Glasgow still does not have a parade which is the centre point of the celebrations throughout the world.
Of course this is a day for the global diaspora and it is on this day more than another that I’m thankful that I haven’t been an Irish exile since my late thirties.
I’m consistently grateful that the Bean a Tí agreed that our brood would grow better in Ireland than Glasgow.
I wanted Mayo, but she wanted Donegal so we compromised and I met her half way on that.
We’re in Donegal…
Ah sure Tír Chonaill has been a fine place for them to be reared as young cool Gaeilgoiri.
Wherever they go in the world once they fly from this nest they’ll always be Irish and their passports will tell the world that this little island is their home.
So if you feel in any way connected to Ireland then this is the day to think about what Ireland means to you.
For all of us it will be different and subjectively authentic to each and every one of us.
The Patrick’s day festival emerged out of Christianity, but now the soulless tentacles of the industry marketing have crushed the original spirituality out of it.
Sure they’ve already done that to Christmas, but Santa continues to expand his market share…
There are so many things about this place that pisses me off.
Modern Ireland often makes my blood boil with rage and my shoulders sag in despair in equal measure.
However, I know that, for Ireland, these are the good old days and we are still emerging from a recent colonial past and part of the national territory remains in the ante room of the Northern Statelet.
I want Ireland, all of it, to be better, but I’ve never wanted to be anywhere else and I doubt I ever will.
This will always be my island.
If it is also yours then you’ll know that in your heart and no one can take it away from you.
Wherever you are today have a great day.
Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh go léir!