I was raised by a guilt ridden, lapsed catholic, Irish mother. From an early age I understood the difference between Northern Ireland and the south. In our house there was regular talk of the IRA, shamrocks, leprechauns, and shillelaghs. The Irish Rovers show was a weekly ritual.

I finally made it to Dublin just a few years ago, and was sorely disappointed. I had anticipated a pre-war town, full of rosy-cheeked cherub children running free under a coal fired haze that hung low over the houses. I had expected a country that wears its heart on its sleeve. At least, that’s how it had been described to me. Clearly things had progressed since 1944, when my mother left, at 21, to nurse in England. She never went back.

My mum’s relations were always a mystery. Born late in her single mother’s life, her siblings were much older and beyond any sense of kin. Her connection to home wasn’t based on family, it was the country itself.

My dad was English, but I have little identification with his heritage. Other than having an odd crush on the monarchy, he showed little passion for his homeland. Maybe, given Britain’s status of conquering empire, he took it for granted. Ireland, on the other hand, has always been the runt of the UK litter, fighting for any sense of place or position.

Today, for me, isn’t about green beer, goofy hats, or ‘kiss me I’m Irish’ buttons. It is about celebrating a place of beauty and hardship, of humour and anger, of deep faith and crippling guilt. My mum’s home. Raise a glass with me. To Ireland.