It feels so strange to be writing my last blog as a Mitchell scholar. I got an e-mail notification that I’d been added to the Mitchell alum google group the other day, and I have to admit that my first reaction was “What? I don’t want to be an alum yet!” It’s been a fantastic year, and though there’s still a thesis to write it’s sad to have the bulk of it behind me.
But I know this doesn’t mean anything like the end of my involvement with Ireland. I’ll be moving to the UK in the fall, just a short RyanAir flight from all I’ve discovered in Cork this year. I intend to come back often; I have too much affection for friends I’ve made here and too much curiosity about all the music I feel I’m still just beginning to discover. Since I’m planning to be on this side of the Atlantic for another two years now, I also feel a real stake in a European future that Ireland is a part of. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – I’m actually writing this blog from a hostel in Milan, my Facebook news feed has been blowing up with commentary on the results of the Eurovision contest, and for the past several weeks my walk to the music building has been marked by dozens of posters advertising candidates for the European elections coming up on May 23rd.
The last fascinates me, since coming from an American two-party background these elections present a dizzying array of candidates and options. As an Irish citizen, I was actually eligible to vote, but I missed the registration deadline for this year. In some ways I think that’s a good thing, since I tend to think of voting as something of a privilege that should be earned by participation in a state. I’m not sure I’ve wholly earned it yet. I also need time to educate myself; when a friend sent me a survey which aimed to match your policy views with those of European politicians, I was stumped by the first question. What exactly are my views on the Common Agricultural Policy? On bailout repayments? I’m not 100% sure yet, but I intend to figure it out and to vote next year. They’re projecting that this year as many as a quarter of European Parliament seats may be won by far-right parties, a scary number if you’re invested in an open, tolerant, and compassionate European Union. And I am. Europe’s future matters to me: I am Irish, however dual that identity; my partner is Swedish; we will be living here; and above all, I have a great deal of faith in the EU’s potential to be a force for good.
I also want it to be a force for good for Ireland. It seems fitting in some ways that after a year spent concerning myself with Irish life – music, art, politics – I’m now starting to think more about Ireland in the context of Europe. Still, I care deeply about Ireland for its own sake and want to see it flourish independently. At the end of the day I owe a deep debt to the welcome I’ve been shown this year in Cork. In fact, I think it’s only right that my last couple lines as a Mitchell be thanks: to everyone I have met in Cork, to the UCC music department for all its teaching and kindness, to Jonathan for being the best fellow Mitchell in Cork that one could ask for, and to Trina and Serena for their help and guidance. As I said, it’s been a fantastic year.