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Alison Curtis: 'I don't sound Irish - but don't tell me to go back to Canada'

The Today FM presenter writes about being told by people to ‘go home’ – despite the fact she is an Irish citizen.

Alison Curtis

MY HUSBAND IS Irish, his family are Irish, my friends are Irish, my daughter is Irish, my home is in Ireland – and in 2013 I became Irish.

So why do people keep telling me to ‘go back home’?

Two weekends ago, while I was presenting my Weekend Breakfast Show for Today FM, a woman wrote into the show and said she didn’t like my taste in music and that the bosses for the station should “send me back” to Canada and let an Irish person present the show.

Across the years I have gotten a few messages along these lines directed towards me and 90% of the time I let them wash over me, but the other few times I really let them bug me.

At the core of these comments are a few unsettling things. One is people feel that they are totally justified in their opinion of who is Irish and who isn’t, and consequently who deserves to reside on this island. The second is that social media has created a platform for these opinions to branch out, reach hundreds of people and perhaps dangerously then reinforce these harmful views in more people’s minds.

‘Go back to Canada’

For example, I love Twitter. I spend so much of my life on it and most of the time it is a lovely space to be. But every once in a while I am reminded that a lot of people use it as a platform to say horrible things with little chance of reprimand.

A few months ago I was tweeting about how much I love Alison Spittle’s show Nowhere Fast. As I follow her I saw a response she wrote to a guy who tore the show apart in one long vitriolic barf. I wrote back to say that I didn’t agree with him and that the show is freaking great. To which he wrote back to tell me I might as well go back to Canada while I am at it. What? I should pick up sticks, sell my house, leave my job of 18 years just because I like a TV show he doesn’t? Seems as bit nutty.

I moved to Ireland in 1999 – I was only going to stay for six months before starting a Masters program in Scotland. But I got a job in Today FM within a few weeks as the PA to the then CEO and went on to earn myself the title of the World’s Worst PA before being moved to the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show for the next eight years.

‘I wanted to be Irish’

Getting my citizenship was a really proud moment for me in 2013. I remember going up the escalators of the Convention Centre in Dublin, with each level giving me a clearer view of this magnificent country.

I stood with 4000 thousand other people that October day and each person had a pathway that lead them to that moment. I will admit mine was straightforward: I hadn’t fled an impoverished life or a war torn area. But I wanted it, I wanted to be Irish.

I love Ireland and I love Irish people. I did a talk once on the difference between Canadians and Irish people – with the Irish winning by 100%. I love the spirit of Ireland, the humour and the kindness. I love the spontaneity of life here and the fact you make a friend out of a stranger while waiting for a ‘beverage’.

I like that we don’t play by the rules all the time and we are a nation of independent thinkers who can detect BS very, very well.

Yes, I don’t “sound” Irish and being Canadian will always be a very strong part of my identity. But the fact is that I am also Irish. And coming from a country which is a nation of immigrants and where it is very much celebrated that people identify as Chinese-Canadian, Jewish-Canadian, or Portuguese-Canadian, for example, I see that as the norm.

I am Canadian-Irish and I may have disagreed with a dude on Twitter about a TV show – but I don’t think I “might as well go back to Canada” because of it.

Alison Curtis presents Saturday Breakfast on Today FM from 8 – 11am and Sunday Breakfast from 7 – 1oam every weekend.

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Alison Curtis

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