“Migration’s never going to stop. It’s a universal part of our identity.”
As I write, the country that I live in – England, Britain, the UK: I’ve never been entirely sure what to call it – is on the cusp of ceding from the rest of Europe. Tomorrow, everything will have changed and nothing will have done. The sea will be no higher, the winter sky no less blue.
My passport is still burgundy, but it now has a harp on it.
There will be more paperwork, politicians will still be arguing, and nobody will be any happier.
But it all passes.
If museums like EPIC tell us anything it’s that we are an ongoing story. Correction: we are part of a collection of tales. Constantly shifting and growing, always in a state of flux. To describe the diaspora as just one thing – whether from Ireland or of Ireland or simply about Ireland – is to miss the point. The diaspora are more than simply a collection of traits and places and family ties.
They are travellers, adding those traits and places and so on to the places and traits of those they meet, love and start families with. We’re not caught in amber. We don’t simply stop. In that sense, the Irish diaspora isn’t unique. It’s just we do more of it than most.
And that – to me – is the purpose of EPIC. To acknowledge not just the width and the depth of those stories but also to keep reminding us that they’re ongoing. Reaching back ever further with one hand into the past but also grasping with the other at the future. In my conversation with Nathan Mannion, I was stuck by his own family stories. Of how decisions made can be remade. Of how the most basic of divisions can eventually be reconciled. Of how life changes with the simplest of choices.
It’s all of these things that make the diaspora a continuing source of fascination and fable.
Change is eternal.
It’s what makes us epic.