Choir of Christ Church Cathedral Dublin - June 2015

An Ex Lay Vicar Choral

Yesterday saw me hang up my choir robes for the last time, as I “retired” from the choir of Christ Church Cathedral.

I first joined the choir in 2007, and in the intervening 8 years I’ve had the privilege to be involved in very exciting things: TV and radio broadcasts, tours, ordinations, consecrations, enthronements, presidential visits, ecumenical services, concerts, and carol services.  I’ve sung in more services than I can count, with some amazing singers and talented musicians.

It’s been a great experience which will leave me with treasured memories and lifelong friendships.

However, all good things must come to an end. A while ago I came to the decision that I wanted to lessen my commitments. The choir takes up Thursday evening, and all day on Sunday – which is quite a lot of time, on top of a full-time job. I’m also concious that being in the choir restricts what we can plan to do as a couple on weekends and special occasions such as Christmas.

So, I’m taking a break from singing. It might be for a short time. It might be for a long time.  I don’t know how I’ll feel in 6 or 12 months time, but for now I’m looking forward to enjoying the extra free time.

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3000 Days in Ireland

As of today I’ve been living in Ireland for 3,000 days.  That’s a little over 8 years.  And when you put it together with the 12 years I lived in Scotland, then I’ve been living outside of my home country of England for over 20 years.

In another few years, I’ll have been living outside of England for longer than I ever lived there.

And although England will always be my nation of birth, and my accent will always identify me as English, the length of time away has shifted my allegiances somewhat. For international sporting events, for example, I feel much more allegiance to the Irish team than I do for the English.

I guess England no longer feels like home to me.  Sure, it’s where I grew up, and it’s where I have family. But in my case, my feeling of connection to England has faded over time. And as such, I don’t really harbour any desire to return.

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Old Trafford Stadium Tour

On Saturday we took my 8-year-old nephew to the Old Trafford Stadium Tour in Manchester. He’s a big Manchester United fan, and had been eagerly looking forward to the visit for weeks.

We set off early for the airport, to catch our flight from Dublin to Manchester. We then took the tram from the airport to Trafford Bar, which is 18 stops and a 40 minute ride. We changed platforms and got onto another tram, and took 1 stop to Old Trafford. The tram station itself is beside the cricket ground (also called Old Trafford), and so there’s a 1km walk to the football ground.

We arrived at the ground at about 1pm, and headed for some lunch in the Red Cafe, which is part of the visitors attractions in the ground. The food is pretty standard fair – burgers, fish and chips, and so forth – but it’s pretty good quality, and reasonably priced around the £10-12 range.

After lunch we headed for the museum, which is included in the price of the tour. The museum contains thousands of items of memorabilia stretching over the lifetime of the club. There’s hundreds of different trophies, football shirts, programmes, and other items – and an interesting section about the Munich disaster, when a plane carrying the team in 1958 crashed and killed 23 people.

At our pre-booked tour time, we gathered up at the meeting point, and our two guides took us into the stadium.

It was pretty cool to see all the different parts, including the dressing rooms, VIP room, press theatre, director’s box, and the player’s tunnel. My nephew was especially excited as he was picked to lead out the ‘team’ from the tunnel to the pitch-side.

Old Trafford Selfie
Old Trafford Selfie

I was interested to note the marked difference between the home and away dressing rooms. The home team definitely have an advantage, in terms of facilities and atmosphere, to help them in their preparations before the game – but I’m sure that happens in all sports stadiums.

After the tour, which takes around an hour, we then had just enough time to visit the Manchester United Megastore to pick up a few souvenirs, before it was time to head back to the airport for our flight home.

It had been a long day by the time we got home, but we enjoyed it – especially my nephew, who will no doubt be talking about it to anyone who’ll listen for weeks to come!

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irishpassport

Some thoughts on Irish Citizenship for a British person

As a British person living in Ireland, I am afforded all the “freedom of movement” rights of EU citizens to work and live wherever I want in Europe.

I am free to reside and work in Ireland, and can travel without restriction in and out of the country. I don’t need to apply for visas or work permits, unlike non-EU migrants. And as such, I’m treated pretty-much as if I was an Irish citizen.

The freedoms are so universal that it’s hard to come up with many tangible differences between being an Irish or EU citizen. Here’s the only restrictions I can find:

  • I’m not allowed to vote in Presidential elections
  • I’m not allowed to vote in any referendum votes
  • I can’t stand as Irish President, or become a member of the Dáil or Seanad

I place quite a lot of value on the voting rights – as I’ve missed out on numerous referendums since moving here – and I feel a bit disenfranchised by not being able to vote on constitutional changes that will have a direct effect upon my life.

But are the voting rights on their own worth the €1,125 naturalisation fees, and the 6 months of bureaucracy and paperwork?

Personal Experience

For the last couple of years I’ve been pondering the idea becoming an Irish citizen. I’ve been living here over 8 years, my wife is Irish, and Ireland looks like it’ll be my home for the foreseeable future. I have deepening roots in this country, and yet sometimes I still feel like a foreigner.

I don’t know if citizenship will help me feel more Irish. I guess my British accent will always set me apart from those who grew up in Ireland. But maybe an Irish passport will help me feel less of an outsider.

Any maybe how I “feel” is what it all comes down to. With few tangible benefits, the major driving force to go for naturalisation would be to feel more at home.

The Numbers

I was hunting around the web for some statistics about the number of British people that apply to Irish naturalisation, but couldn’t find any breakdown of naturalisation by country. The naturalisation numbers just don’t appear to be published anywhere, which seems strange.

There are loads of figures about immigration , and the census breaks down the population by country of origin. Indeed, the last census recorded 390,000 EU nationals resident in Ireland, which amounts to about 8% of the population.  But I suspect that the number of those people applying for Irish citizenship is tiny.

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Postcodes in Ireland

Up until now, Ireland has not had a postcode system for postal addresses. This sometime made the ordering of goods from abroad quite tricky, as even our neighbours in the UK were confused that we didn’t use postcodes.

At the end of June 2015 an organisation called Eircode will be rolling out postcodes to 2.2 million homes and businesses across the republic.

The format of the new Eircode will be a 3-digit alphanumeric ‘routing key’, followed by a 4-digit alphanumeric ‘unique identifier’. The routing key will identify the area you live in, and in Dublin it will mirror the current postal district codes (D2, D6W, D15, etc.) The unique identifier will be a random selection of numbers and letters that identify your house or apartment. The unique identifiers of neighbours will bear no relation to each other, and cannot be used to infer a neighbourhood or street.

Source: Eircode
Source: Eircode
  • The Routing Key will always start with a letter A, C, D, E, F, H, K, N, P, R, T, V, W, X or Y, and will be followed by two numeric digits (0-9) – except for the area of the D6W where the letter W is valid on the 3rd digit.
  • The Unique Identifier will comprise a mixture of letters and/or numbers – letters A, C, D, E, F, H, K, N, P, R, T, V, W, X or Y, and numbers 0-9. No two houses in the same street will have a similar codes, and no two houses of the same name will have a similar code.

Hopefully the new postcode system will allow the more accurate routing of the emergency services and postal/courier services – and hopefully it’ll be adopted into satnav systems, to help the rest of us navigate more successfully.

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