University College Dublin Glenomena Student Residences, Belfield, Dublin 04. 1 November, 2022.
To begin with breaking news, Ireland was officially declared as the 51st U.S. State last week by an expert.
My last cab driver Brendan, an expert Dublin taxi operator which is high mark indeed for both left-handed stick driving skill and entertaining conversation, concluded ‘Ireland is practically the 51st of the United States’. Of course this would be problematic for a number of reasons and one should keep in mind that Brendan’s cab is a vessel of entertainment (a.k.a. not a source for factual reporting). But, the fake news headline seemed like an interesting place to start this series of Mitchell Scholar blog posts.
I met Brendan after a Ryan Air powered visit to Switzerland for a few short days.
Many see Ireland as a gateway to other EU member states which may be true thanks the brilliant business work of Irish airlines, but I’ve found Ireland feels like much more of a second home on this side of the pond. After a quick return to Dublin it was an interesting dynamic to hop on the train to visit other Mitchell Scholars in Galway and find a feeling that I had returned somewhere very familiar in spite of only being here for a short time – perhaps the 51st state. For many American visitors looking at Ireland as a 51st state may be a subconscious frame to have for many reasons, a unique Irish admiration of the States and American culture among them stemming from multiple causes including our unique ties from diasporic kinship to US involvement in Irish peace negotiations.
Great exploration of the 51st state out of Dublin has been shared with Mitchell Scholars who I already consider good friends, and whose friends from UCD and Trinity have also become my own along the way.
My own survey of the 51st has involved several unusual experiences to have only been here 3 months: realizing my hometown is sister cities with Buncrana, getting a motorbike in Donegal and riding across the border of Northern Ireland which in some cases looked like my home Bluegrass State, nice hiking around the Wicklow Mountains and visiting spooky castles before Halloween.
Underneath a survey of growing familiarity, there has been slow progress on a new endeavor I hope to accomplish in Ireland as a Mitchell Scholar – introducing public policy support for new use of Irish peatlands to potentially restore biodiversity & carbon sequestration along with lost labor markets. There is a kinship of challenges between the 51st and other states where Ireland is also in its own struggle to have a just transition to renewables and new resources, though under a more dire situation with an energy crisis and historic high living costs.
After being in Ireland only a few weeks, despite a learning curve to understand the workings of Irish governance through the Oireachtas I was able to quickly meet with TD Jackie Cahill – chair of the agriculture committee. (After the meeting I also found my way into the Prime Minister’s diplomatic office to snag a photo). After describing the work I hope to pursue, similarities between Kentucky and Ireland which spurred the interest, and getting some initial feedback we were interrupted when a foreign Ambassador came over to greet Jackie.
What Jackie said to introduce me was perhaps an inside confirmation of the 51st state from the halls of Irish parliament – that he was meeting with a “constituent” of his. Yet, I have no vote or constituency here…
So perhaps after discovering Ireland as the 51st state, there may indeed be some sort of policy action to come before my year here is over.
Future blogs may tell.