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'Home is just a word. But in Ireland the word home has always been different to home somewhere else'

Writer Colm Keegan examines what is home to us here in Ireland – is it a feeling, is it a right?

Colm Keegan

HOME IS JUST a word. But in Ireland the word home has always been different to home somewhere else.

Home is our history, a teach, a cottage with a half door and whitewashed walls. No food on the table and redcoats outside, the roof on fire. Home is a pure and stoic one syllable word, like gold. Home is alive and warm, a closed circle we all sit inside.

Home in Celtic Tiger Ireland was all of that, but also a thing grown fat like a pinata, filled with dodgy credit, decking and triple-glazing, flash cars, kitchen islands and cocaine and then it went down in flames, fell to earth and smashed open on the ground.

That’s where we all live now, in the rubble of that fallen dream. Ten years since the crash you might say, move on, build a bridge and get over it. Easier said than done. For some that bridge is like the one in the Lord of the Rings. Most can get over it, some can not. The crash is like the balrog, that whip coming up from the dark and hobbling us all, dragging some of us down.

Home is a family car, a hotel, a tent

Home is the word at the back of our throats now, an ideal we fear can be lost. Home is a trapped animal the politicians won’t let out of their mouths. Home is a floor in a friend’s house, home is a family car, a hotel, a tent.

A word understood more and more through its absence. Home is a prince in debt, robbed of its wealth. A glass ceiling or a perimeter fence made of mortgages that are impossible to get. Smoke in the hands of the one in five called ‘generation rent’. Families who mark the timeline of their lives through the houses they left, three of four before a kid turns 16 because too many years in one address and the landlord will find it harder to throw them out.

Home is a word that gets flipped on the daily. That’s what they call it now when the vulture funds swoop, when they buy apartments by the lot and throw the existing tenants out. Your house is flipped. Everything is flipped. Then home is a magic trick. A nest you loved and decorated yourself becoming a key in your pocket that doesn’t open anything anymore.

Home is a pipe dream

Home mightn’t be that to you, but it’s that to somebody else. Home was something safe, an uber cliché and it’s fast becoming a pipe dream for too many, a possibility we’re all afraid of losing now, because more than ever, it’s something that can be taken away.

But home is more than just a word. It’s a feeling. And feelings live in us. In the heart, the great furnace of change. Ours have been numbed. We were collectively stunned, like a boxer after a sucker punch.

Something happened to us 10 years ago, I remember it in the place I used to work. We got put on a three-day week, our wages were cut and we all shut the fuck up, we pulled up the emotional drawbridge. I think we’ve been like that for too long.

It’s good to mind yourself, but the consequence is you can get numb to what’s happening to everyone else. We need to acknowledge that something closed down in us, and then open it back up. Then we can connect to each other again, grow something from the rubble of this country.

Home is more than a word, more than a feeling. It’s a right, and we need to hold on to it.

Home is what we are.

Writer Colm Keegan’s play For Saoirse is on now at Axis: Ballymun. It runs until 22 September. For tickets, visit the Dublin Fringe Festival website.  Listen to a recording of Colm Keegan reading this piece on RTÉ Radio 1 show Arena.

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Colm Keegan

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