Today, Ireland votes.
It has been a long winter.
There have days when I genuinely feared that the rain would never stop. I have, in my mind’s eye, seen a tsunami rising from the river valley towards my house. I have wondered at what point I should pile the children into the car and drive away. How long should I wait? Until our property is at risk? Until our lives are in danger?
I have wondered if the government has a secret Ark on standby in Baldonnel.
An overwhelming majority of my college contemporaries have emigrated.
Come Summer, we will be inundated with visits from old friends. Some we see once a year, regular as The Rose Of Tralee, others once a decade.
They sit at our kitchen table and we share ‘where are they now?’ stories. We compare life in Ireland with life somewhere else – climate, food, schools, the cost of orthodontics, the availability of good coffee.
They all agree that some things are still better in Ireland than anywhere else: The butter for instance. And yet, they all look at us with eyes that say, ‘Why are you still here?’.
We ask ourselves the same question.
In fact, we left for three years and we came back. My Italian-born son endlessly bemoans our decision. My daughter, who seriously resents having to study the Irish language, joins his chorus.
‘Why did you come back?’ they lament, ‘why are you still here?’
I don’t want to start again. Again.
I had an unsettled and nomadic childhood. My mother paid the bills by buying near-derelict, feck that, derelict houses, renovating them and selling them on at a profit. We lived in each house just long enough to get a kitchen fitted.
We never painted the same wall twice.
I want to see the floorboards wear down. I want to watch the trees grow old. I want roots.
Because I am Irish and this feels right. This is the jigsaw I fit into.
Because I was raised by proud republicans and I want my children to be Irish.
I want to be proud that I live here, not defensive.
I want smart people to feel they can achieve their full potential here and be rewarded for doing so.
I want a country with a few smart people left in it to teach my children, to inspire them, to doctor them, to fix their teeth.
I don’t want to feel that staying in Ireland is somehow choosing a smaller life.
Is there a polling station anywhere in the country where I can vote for that?