A series of Irish notable figures will reflect on what “To Be Irish” means to them as they chat from London, Kenya, Canada and New York as part of ‘To Be Irish’ at Christmas initiative.
Launched by Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora, Colm Brophy, T.D., ‘To Be Irish’ invites Irish people across the globe to explore an online programme of Irish music, culture, performances, community engagement and collective spirit from home and abroad at tobeirish.ie. The online platform is specially designed to share and swap special memories of Irish Christmases and celebrate many of the things we love about being Irish.
A series of events will take place from 21-31 Dec which can be enjoyed online. One will be a series of conversations with some well-known Irish faces living abroad.
- Gabriel Byrne and Niall Burgess, Secretary General, Department of Foreign Affairs (23 Dec, 7pm GMT)
- Emma Donoghue and her brother David Donoghue, former Irish Ambassador to the UN (27 Dec, 4pm GMT)
- Graham Norton in conversation with Maeve Higgins (27 Dec, 7pm GMT)
- Colum McCann and Fionnuala Quinlan, Irish Ambassador to Kenya (30 Dec, 7pm GMT)
All events are free to enjoy at tobeirish.ie.
For the full programme of events and to share your own memories / stories go to tobeirish.ie
15 December 2020
Notes to Editor
Gabriel Byrne and Niall Burgess, Secretary General, Department of Foreign Affairs (23 Dec, 7pm GMT)
Gabriel Byrne in conversation with Niall Burgess about Byrne’s memoir Walking With Ghosts, what it really means to be Irish abroad, and the significance of ‘home’.
Internationally-renowned Irish actor Gabriel Byrne has lived in the US for decades. Having studied archaeology and worked as a teacher, his acting career has taken him from Dublin’s Focus Theatre to London, New York and Hollywood, which he described recently as “a ridiculous place to want to be accepted. Like going into a hardware store and looking for a pizza.” His recent memoir Walking With Ghosts has been heralded by critics as a beautifully written and unsparing account of his upbringing and career. Niall Burgess, Secretary General at the Department of Foreign Affairs also trained to be an archaeologist. He is the senior civil servant and non-political head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which provides a vital range of services to Irish citizens and promotes and protects Ireland’s interests in the world. He previously served in Chicago, Geneva, and Brussels, and has been Consul General in New York.
Author Emma Donoghue and her brother David Donoghue, former Irish Ambassador to the UN (27 DEC, 4pm GMT)
Two very impressive siblings discuss their lives, travels, careers… and family Christmases past and present. Emma and David are two of eight children. Celebrated author Emma lives with her family in Canada, having settled there in 1998. Her 2010 bestseller Room was a finalist for the Man Booker prize, and her adaptation of it for screen was nominated for an Academy Award. Her prescient new novel The Pull of the Stars follows young nurse Julia Power as she works in a maternity ward in Dublin at the height of the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918.
One of Ireland’s most senior retired diplomats, David Donoghue joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1975. He was Ireland’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations between 2013 and 2017, with previous postings including the Irish Embassy in the Holy See, Germany, and London. He was involved for many years in the Northern Ireland peace process, and was one of the Government’s negotiators for the ground-breaking Good Friday Agreement.
Graham Norton in conversation with Maeve Higgins (27 Dec, 7pm GMT)
Comedy gold this Christmas as Graham Norton talks to Maeve Higgins about writing, broadcasting, his life in London since the 1980s, and why he loves spending time in west Cork.
Graham has garnered many television and writing awards – including Popular Fiction Book of the Year 2020 for his third novel Home Stretch. From his first hilarious screen appearance as Father Noel Furlong on Father Ted, his ready wit and charm has seen him become a stalwart of television and radio. Emigration features strongly in Home Stretch as he explores the relationships between those who leave and their families and communities. He paints a vivid portrait of the evolution of gay life in Ireland, and in the book thanks “all the people who stayed in Ireland to fight for the modern, tolerant country it has become”. Maeve Higgins was a bestselling author and comedian in Ireland before moving to New York, and her 2018 book Maeve in America captures her life there with her trademark insight and honesty.
Author Colum McCann and Fionnuala Quinlan, Irish Ambassador to Kenya (30 Dec, 7pm GMT)
Two former journalists whose lives have taken very different and remarkable paths in conversation about Colum McCann’s new novel Apeirogon, and their lives as Irish abroad.
Colum McCann had his own column and by-line in the Evening Press by the age of 21. He moved away from Ireland in 1986, and has been living in New York since 1994. His many awards include the Rooney Prize and the International Dublin Literary Award. His acclaimed novel Apeirogon explores the conflict in the Middle East. Fionnuala Quinlan, a former journalist with The Echo and Irish Examiner, joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 2008 as press adviser to Irish Aid. Having previously been the Consul General in Boston, she was appointed Irish Ambassador in Kenya in 2019. Based in Nairobi, she covers Kenya, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. 1,500 Irish people have made their home in Kenya, and she says she was immediately struck by the warmth of the relationship between Ireland and Kenya, and the many similarities between the two nations.