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“Being Irish in Britain,” a discussion

On Saturday, April 5, 2014 the London Irish Centre held a one-day conference to discuss what it means today to be Irish in Britain. Like many, I followed along from afar — in transit between Washington, DC and New York at the time.

Many threads of conversation (in person and online) touched on the experiences of emigration and immigration, issues of identity, community supports, political interests, and the differences between past and present.

Especially given the relevance of these topics to my book, I used Storify to preserve and organize the day’s discussions: “Being Irish in Britain.” Hope it’s helpful.

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The reach of a single village: Moyvane, Co. Kerry

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Since my op-ed, “An Irish journey, shared by all,” ran in the New York Daily News on St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve been touched to hear how much it has resonated with so many people from so many backgrounds.

My latest piece — published today by the Irish Times on its “Generation Emigration” blog — focuses on departure through the experiences of a single village in Co Kerry, Ireland: Moyvane:

“Time and again, places like Moyvane have seen their “children” and their descendants leave their imprints wherever they have gone. Some followed religious paths. Others laid roads, fought fires, and opened pubs. They went into medicine, law, business, and government. They shared the gifts of the instruments they played, the words they wrote, and the stories they told.”

From Australia to Brazil, England, Wales, the Gambia, across the United States, and elsewhere still… well, this community of roughly 400 people continues to have quite a global reach!  Of course, there’s an echo here shared by other villages, towns, and cities throughout Ireland and around the world:

“The significance of emigration… is that one country’s loss often means another’s gain. The reach of a single village can be disproportionate to its size.”

If you or your family hails from Moyvane (also known historically as Newtownsandes), neighboring Knockanure, or the surrounding area in North Kerry, please leave a comment below or send me an e-mail.  I’d love to hear your stories as well.

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For many, reminders of exile

New York Daily News, source: nydailynews.com

Coinciding with St. Patrick’s Day this year, the New York Daily News published my op-ed, “An Irish journey, shared by all” — a reflection on the experiences of emigration and exile through the lens of our family’s story.  The gist:

“Today, crowds gather — as they do every year — on account of a saint who lived 16 centuries ago. It isn’t simply that everybody becomes Irish for a day. It’s rather that the Irish experience, like the experience of St. Patrick, resonates so broadly. Theirs is a story of departure as well as arrival, a reminder of leaving home, of those left behind.”

As well as  my excitement over seeing this publish online bright and early (i.e., at 4:40 a.m.), one of the day’s highlights for me was standing at the counter of a local convenience store here in New York flipping through the pages with the cashier to find the placement in print.  Having grown up abroad, she told me how excited she was to wrap up her shift to be able to read another immigrant’s story with the help of a dictionary, since she generally found it difficult to understand newspapers.

As you can imagine, I’ve been so humbled by the response thus far. 

If you haven’t yet, please read on — and share, like, and tweet away!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Christmastime in Tralee

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A glimpse of the lobby at the Grand Hotel, where my grandfather would go for a meal after Kerry County Council meetings years ago. I enjoyed a great dinner there this time around with my Uncle Willie.

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Introducing #nuala, my Ignite talk at News Foo

Anybody following #newsfoo will have a glimpse of just how great it is to be back at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University this weekend for the third News Foo Camp, an annual gathering of tech, journalism, and policy enthusiasts hosted by Google, the Knight Foundation, and O’Reilly Media.  Tonight I’ll be delivering my first Ignite talk here in Phoenix.

This series of zippy five-minute presentations backed by twenty auto-advancing slides has for me been a highlight of past News Foos, and this go-around I’ll be tackling the topic of electricity in Ireland, looking at the country’s history through the lens of my mom’s experience. She was six years old when she first witnessed the “miracle” of electricity in her home, a single light bulb installed in her kitchen.

If you’re interested, you can follow along and/or contribute from afar (estimated start time somewhere between 9:35-9:59 p.m. MST / 11:35-11:59 p.m. EST) via Twitter (#nuala), and I’ll share the YouTube video as soon as it’s live.

It’s certainly humbling to be in the company of all the other Igniters tonight, so please be sure to keep an eye on the talks from Brian Conley, Sara Critchfield, Sam Gregory, Adriano Farano, Chase Davis, and Laura Ramos as well.

Looking forward!

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Another step forward, bringing the past to life

When I was 12 years old, I told my mom that someday I would write her story. She grew up on a small dairy farm in the southwest of Ireland as the fifteenth of sixteen children. Like many, she went to work in London and, at the age of 21, came to New York. The day after she arrived in America, her mom passed away back in Ireland. For as long as I can remember, these memories and so many more have captivated me and resonated with all who have likewise experienced loss or left home — and know what it means to leave a part of themselves behind.

Having first traveled to Ireland when I was only eight weeks old, I returned often throughout my childhood to visit family. After graduating from Boston University in 2005, I moved there to follow through on the promise I had made a decade earlier. For nearly a year and a half, I conducted interviews, delved through local archives and government records, traveled widely, and began writing a non-fictional book that weaves three generations of my family’s experiences through the backdrop of a changing community and country.

During autumn of 2006, I joined Google’s global communications department at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. Since then, over the course of almost six years, I’ve felt blessed to work with the most wonderful colleagues around the world and to be so involved with the broader technology and journalism communities.

All the while, living in San Francisco (2006-2008), Sydney (2008), and New York (2009-present), I’ve continued to write and edit during my weekends and vacations — working outside of work to bring my family’s memories to life through the written word. Some have called this a personal passion. Others say the effort has been a labor of love.

To me, quite simply, it’s time. Friday marked my last day at Google.

While I’ll still be very much involved in the same tech and journalism circles, I’m setting off to focus on publishing my book and sharing the stories it holds. Whether with a traditional publisher or independently, I’ll certainly pursue many creative and entrepreneurial angles that make the most of the online landscape and will be looking forward to sharing updates and reflections here at the Irish road as well as via Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and other platforms.

Thank you again to everybody who has expressed such support and interest over the years. Much more is yet to come!

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