Episode 1 – The Panti Monologue

“One of the things I’ve always been interested in, is, in a sense, expanding the definition of “Irishness”.

When I was a teenager I always felt that my Irishness was somehow suspect.
I didn’t tick all the boxes you were supposed to tick as an Irish boy.
I didn’t like football, I didn’t get U2, the “Trip To Tipp” sounded absolutely terrifying to me. And on top of that, I did tick a whole lot of boxes that seemed incompatible with Irishness at the time: I was gay, I liked Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, and on top of that I had this weird accent.
I didn’t even sound like an Irish boy was supposed to sound. I was always being asked accusingly, “Where are you from?”, and when I’d say I was from Mayo I’d get the kind of look you usually only get from a suspicious immigration officer.
Even my very middle class-ness was somehow vaguely un-Irish. Irishness was somehow working class.
Irishness was stone-picking farmers or hod-carrying labourers or tenement Dubliners – not the son of a Vet.
Middle class-ness was vaguely Protestant, and I always felt an odd kinship with Irish Protestants, whose Irishness was also continually suspect. I felt as if my Irishness was always being called into question.

It seemed to me as if Irishness had a very strict, narrow definition, and that definition wasn’t elastic enough to include someone like me.

And although it wasn’t the only reason, it was certainly part of the reason I ran out of Ireland at the first opportunity I could, because I wasn’t sure there would ever really be a place for me here. And it was only later, when Ireland began to change, that I started to think that maybe there could be a place for me here. But even then, I thought I’d have to make a place for me here.
And in some ways, I would say that that, perhaps more than anything else, is what I’ve been about for the last twenty years – trying to expand the definition of Irishness to include people like me. Trying to make the concept of Irishness elastic enough to include people like me.
And I think, over the last twenty years or so, the boundaries of Irishness have expanded to stretch around people people like me. People who were previously outside.
Certainly I no longer feel that my Irishness is suspect. Perhaps that’s partly just down to the fact that I’m older and more confident in my own self; my own Irishness.

But I do think Irishness has become more flexible, more malleable. It has squeezed up on the pew and made room for a few more.