Ireland's landscape causes jaws to drop. But what picks them up again, and gets them gabbing till all hours, are Ireland’s people. Isn’t it time you made their acquaintance?
There are many variations on the Irish personality. Around six million variations, in fact. That’s the number of people calling this beautiful and complicated island home, and every one of them brings something different to the table.
Didn’t Freud say the Irish are the only race impervious to psychoanalysis? In other words, don’t expect answers. Just have fun asking questions.
There are certain standards that we all maintain, of course. The passion, the poetry, the infectious chat and craic (fun)…these are pretty much true all round.
Yes, we’re passionate – about politics, about sport, about parsing our place in the world. Yes, we’re prone to a good book and the guy or gal who can write one. Yes, we love to talk and, yes, fun is our oxygen.
But Irishness goes deeper than all of this, too.
Home is where the heart is
The people of Ireland love to travel, to learn about the world. Our diaspora, whether they left by choice or necessity, number some 70 million. But we love coming home, too – to our native cities, countryside and kitchens.
We love spending time with our families, enjoy a gossip around the kitchen table and chat to anyone who'll listen to us. And we’re crackers about those quirky little things that make us different: red lemonade; potato farls; Tayto crisps. Words like "wee" (small) and "grand" (fine). The fact that GAA shorts are too short. Or that Titanic was fine when she left Belfast.
It’s no secret that there’s a creative side to the Irish personality. Think the Book of Kells and the Expressionist painter Jack B Yeats (brother of the poet, WB). Think ancient sagas and legends like An Táin and the Children of Lir to writers such as James Joyce, CS Lewis and Seamus Heaney. Think actors like Maureen O’Hara to Liam Neeson and Saoirse Ronan.
Yes, art has always coursed through our veins.
This is a place where an Oscar or a Nobel Prize is celebrated amidst rapturous island applause one evening, and popped embarrassedly onto the mantelpiece the morning after.
The beauty of this creative spark, however, is that it doesn’t solely belong to Bono, Enya and Snow Patrol. You’ll find arts festivals and craftspeople in the smallest of towns, breathing new life into old mills and milk parlours in every corner of the countryside.
Filmmakers such as Jim Sheridan and Kenneth Branagh boast international reputations, but there are hordes of talented directors, screenwriters and animators following their lead.
And music? Well, there’s always music, be it U2, Enya, Van Morrison or Snow Patrol, or trad sessions in cosy country pubs.
The last laugh
It’s often said that the national pastime (well, the male one anyway) is slagging. Ribbing, messing, taking the Mick – you’ll find all manner of ways to describe these crafty torrents of affectionate abuse. And visitors are by no means immune to this cultural talent.
As a rule, you see, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. And when we do, it’s nothing a good slagging won’t sort out.
Most of all, though, we love to laugh. We love a bit of mischief, of devilment, from the witty riposte in the pub to the wise-cracking Patrick Kielty or Dara O’Briain.
And after the tumultuous centuries we’ve had in our time, laughter has always come out as the healthy option.
It’s the best medicine, after all. Come join us in a drop.