Irelandness - by Grammy nominated songwriter, Johnny McDaid

Posted on: 7 November 2017 by Johnny McDaid in 2017 posts

Johnny McDaid

Songwriter, producer and Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Irish Studies, Johnny McDaid blogs about celebrating his Irish identity and Irish culture.

"I recently received a letter informing me that the University of Liverpool’s Department of Irish Studies had made me an Honorary Fellow. Having worked with Dorothy Lynch, I have been inspired by her work and that of the Institute of Irish Studies as they cultivate a space where Ireland’s culture is celebrated and proliferated in the context of the greater world. When I received this honour, it sparked a thought in me about what indeed it meant, and how it reflects something of my own journey, one that led me away from the place that I still call home.

I have been away from Ireland for longer than I lived there, but when I am asked where I am from, I say I am Irish. This isn’t just because I was born in Dublin and I grew up in Derry. It isn’t because I have an Irish passport and an Irish accent (albeit one which has been mistaken for that of a Scotsman, a Canadian and at times, even an American). It isn’t because my 23 and Me results tell me that I am 97.8% Irish. I say I am Irish, because I feel Irish. I identify with what I feel on the inside. It is easy, in my case, to join the dots and trace a line back to the root of why I might feel part of this culture, but why should that be the criteria? Labelling is one thing, access is another. Is it not a beautiful thing that we have myriad cultures, all over the world, all of them informed by what came before they were designated a label? Appellation is not to define. Just as we are not guilty of the sins of our ancestors, we are not granted sole access to the cultures that formed around them, as they forged their way through the world. All of us are 100% human, but that is where the singularity ends.

Irishness, or indeed a kinship with any culture, is not reserved merely for those born on a certain piece of land, or for those who hold a document to say they have the right to declare an affinity. Irishness is a felt thing.

It speaks to the depth and magnetism of a culture when someone would honour their own connection to it, regardless of whether they have been to the place where it originated, or not. For such a small rock on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland has a particularly far reach, insofar as her energy and cultural DNA has influenced the lives of many. Echoes of Ireland’s voice are found on nearly every corner of the earth and, should you hear it and find harmony, curiosity, or wonder as you walk towards it, she will welcome you in. For culture, unlike people, is not afraid. It exists only as a collective as it lives in hearts, minds and in art. Culture knows that she is in flux and not in ignorant stasis, claimed as a “stuck thing”, felt or known only by those who deem themselves worthy.

My culture is mine, but it does not belong to me. It is unique because it is experienced through the filter of my life. When I am no longer here, it will be, living in some form, somewhere. Culture is informed by those who feel it, as those who feel it are informed by culture. So if you feel it, if it speaks to who you are, then it is just so. Ireland is an island; Irishness is not."

Find out more

About the Institute of Irish Studies

Studying the history and culture of Ireland

val walsh
Date: 20 November 2017

Lovely blog, especially at this particular historical moment.

Reply to: val walsh.

Thanks for your comment Val, glad you enjoyed Johnny's post!