Grace Dyas in the Round Room of the Mansion House, Dublin last weekend addresses the We Need to Talk About Ireland conference (organised by Trailblaze), exploring ‘what it means to be Irish in 2014’.
“I am an artist and activist from inner city Dublin. I work with THEATREclub, where we make socially engaged plays. It’s my birthday tomorrow. [March 17] I’ll be 25. I have always shared the limelight with St Patrick! I, like many of you have drank until I vomited on this night.
Tonight I feel like I can’t talk about Ireland anymore. Talking about Ireland has made me sick. It’s a complicated thing right now to be Irish.
In 2010, I collaborated with a community of heroin addicts, drugs workers and heroin survivors to make a piece of theatre that traced Ireland’s relationship with the drug. Since then I have spent a lot of my time thinking about addiction.
We live everyday in Ireland with addiction because whether we’ve experienced it or not, we can’t avoid it. It’s in our face because it’s on our streets.
When we live with addiction what else do we live with? We live with what can’t be said, we live with the holes inside of us that run so deep they can’t be filled.
I think for years we filled these holes with religion. When our belief ran out, we filled them with money, and of course we’ve always had drink and drugs.
When I say holes, I mean trauma, the stuff that’s too painful to accept. The word addiction comes from the Latin ‘without voice’. Ireland is an addict and many people here have never had a voice. Remember, once upon a time we were all innocent little babies in prams.
So how does anyone become a heroin addict? I have met a lot of heroin addicts, every one of those people have disclosed to me [that they] were sexually abused. (It is not surprising when you think heroin is one of the strongest painkillers you can get. Can you see the link?) This is one our national traumas. This is a huge part of what needs to be voiced.
We’re not all taking heroin, but we are feeling the pain. Our government’s current solution is to distribute methadone, free legal drugs. There are 9,668 people here on a methadone prescription. Is this the best we can do? to continue to numb people. And to legitimately support and pay for that?
A lot of what needs to be talked about about Ireland is overwhelming. It’s easy to feel disempowered by that, and so we become passive. And so we do nothing. A lot of people have asked me, what can I do? I’m asking that question of myself every day.
So here is what I think we can do: Maybe the answer is simple. If we are addicts because don’t have a voice, then we must become people who can really listen. What amazing things could we do if we all became ‘with voice’ instead of ‘without voice’? To do that, we need to see the holes deep within ourselves.
And I’m just gonna say it. It’s okay to love yourself. Love is the answer, no matter what your questions are. As for me, my answer to myself when I torture myself with the question of what can I do always comes back to this; I have to do the work I am here to do. I need to talk about Ireland.”
Full Trailblaze show here