WE HAVE all had to make unexpected adjustments to how we live, and for the Consulate, and those in the Irish community in Scotland, one of our first adjustments was to sadly cancel St Patrick’s Day celebrations this year. Mid-March seems a very long time ago now, and to many St Patrick’s Day may be no more than a frivolity, given the much greater sacrifices made and losses felt.
As has long been the case all across Britain, many Irish people serve on the frontline in NHS Scotland, and we all have so much for which to thank them. Irish people in Scotland are working across other essential services, maintaining so many of the daily routines of our lives here.
The last few months haven’t been easy for anyone, and being kind to ourselves and to others has become more important than ever. It is heartening to see how Irish people and organisations in Scotland have rallied together and with others to look after their communities, including through the Ethnic Minority National Resilience Network (EMNRN) of BEMIS which has been so responsive.
GAA clubs in Scotland have harnessed the power of social media at a time when they cannot meet up on the pitch. The clubs’ tremendous outreach has embodied the sense of community and togetherness for which the GAA is well known. Tír Conaill Harps’ skills booklet for underage players, and Glasgow Gaels’ campaign for Mental Health Awareness Week, which encouraged players to support each other off the pitch and highlighting the collective community approach (above) to overcoming social isolation, are two outstanding examples.
I know that Ceann Creige Hurling and Camogie Club recently celebrated their first anniversary, an occasion not marked as would have been hoped. The great start they have made with their Hurling into Schools project is also cause for celebration, and I hope that they will be able to restart it again before long.
Causeway Ireland Scotland Business Exchange have also moved a lot of their events and networking activities online, which will benefit Irish and Scottish businesses adapting to the changed circumstances in which they are now trading. This new way of operating also opens up opportunities for new business and professional members who might not previously have been able to attend events in person, due to geography and time commitments. Although activities for both remain online for now, I am delighted to see the relationship between Scotland GAA and Causeway strengthened. This partnership approach is hugely important for the Irish Community in Scotland.
As doors of concert halls, theatres and libraries have had to remain closed, Irish creativity has brought so much inspiration and entertainment while we stay at home. Comhaltas have been bringing wonderful Irish traditional music into our homes and now have launched a storytelling competition so that we can all look forward to hearing from Scotland’s seanchaí. Glasgow’s Paddy Callaghan, a Comhaltas stalwart, has been treating us with his online trad discos. It’s been great to see Evin Downey of Conradh na Gaeilge turning on a sixpence to provide online classes, and to witness the Ciorcal Comhrá in Edinburgh going virtual too.
When Ambassador Adrian O’Neill in London sought #FromIsolationInspiration, Scotland responded. We had our wonderful Irish poet Anne Connelly whisking some joy into our spirits from Edinburgh with her poem Homemade, and Irish pianist Mary McCarthy brought us to back to the 1600s with the music of Turlough O’Carolan. From Inverness, Brian Ó hEadhra and Fiona Mackenzie delighted us with a song in Gaelic about the Irish navigator, Saint Brendan, and mezzo-soprano Carolyn Holt in Glasgow brought us Down by the Salley Gardens. Likewise, SafeHome Ireland’s first Facebook Live concert featured superb representation from Scotland, with both Paddy Callaghan and the Friel Sisters from Glasgow, and Brian and Fiona in Inverness too.
Closer to home, the #DearIreland project run by the Abbey Theatre showcased so much Irish theatrical talent, and brought laughter, thought and tears in equal measure. Culture Ireland’s #IrelandPerforms and Other Voices’ #Courage series have provided beautiful and inspiring performances in our kitchens. We’ve also been treated by the BBC to the fabulous adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People. For those who are tired of a screen, I will always recommend the archive of award-winning Documentary on One broadcasts from RTÉ Radio One.
It will be a while before we can come together in person again, but we continue to share so much. Until we can, let’s be kind to ourselves and to others, as we live together in shared the shelter of community, ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.
Jane McCulloch is the Consul General of Ireland in Scotland