Irish-Heritage USers

A Beginning Perspective and an Invitation

A warm hello to you! My job as Information Coordinator for Irish-Heritage USers is to collect and share counseling directions and insights as we Irish-heritage USers claim this identity.

The first newsletter for our group will come out soon. I will circulate it to those who have contributed to it. If you’d like to contribute, please write to me. What have you learned in your Co-Counseling sessions as you’ve claimed being U.S. Irish? What have you learned about us from counseling others in our group? How is this work changing your thinking, your life?

For many of us, claiming being Irish is having a profound effect on our discharge and re-emergence. We are cleaning up confusions about ourselves and our people related to immigration, colonization, religion, and genocide. We are successfully stopping addictions (the tracks of oppression on us) and helping others to do the same. With the help of trusted Co-Counselors, we are also facing the oppressor end of our identity and stopping behaviors that target our loved ones and others.


We are USers with any connection to Irish identity. We may have one great-grandparent or many relatives who were Irish-born. We may have lots of information about the connection or almost none.

Over forty million of us USers claim Irish heritage. We are as diverse a group as the United States itself and represent many identities along with Irish (each of which we get to claim). Having more than one cultural heritage does not make us less Irish or make claiming our Irish identity less important! (A man with seventy-five percent Polish heritage came to an Irish-heritage topic group recently, feeling like he had no right to be there. He had one part-Irish grandmother who had played an important role in his early life. Once he understood that it was okay for him to claim being Irish, he was able to have session after session about his love for her and all he had learned from her warmth, humor, and rock-solid strength in the face of adversity.)

We are good, smart, creative, resilient, powerful, loving people of courage and integrity. We have played central roles in many U.S. liberation movements. We have made huge contributions to life in the United States.

We have also reenacted the hurts our people experienced in over a thousand years of colonization and attempted genocide in Ireland. Upon arrival in the United States, our ancestors participated in the occupation of this land, in the genocide of Native peoples, in slavery and wars of conquest. They participated, and so have we, in the oppression of many groups.


Many of us carry the internalized oppression of our Irish ancestors, stemming from the loss of land, language, culture, and religion. The RC pamphlet Irish Liberation Policy brilliantly describes this internalized oppression.

When I shared the “mental-health” history of my family at a Catholics and “Mental Health” Workshop several years ago, an RCer from Ireland said, “Rita, that’s an Irish story. We all have stories like that in our families. You might want to claim being Irish.” Doing so has changed my counseling and my life. It has lifted the weight of the oppression off my shoulders. The idea that “there is something awful about and wrong with me and my family” has changed to “we survived brutal oppression.”

On top of Irish internalized oppression, we Irish-heritage USers also carry white U.S. patterns of greed and feeling superior. Claiming our heritage means discharging these patterns too.


The following counseling directions have been useful to me. What has worked for you? Please write!

Claim the person(s) in your family who first came to the United States.

Do you know a name? An approximate date? A region of Ireland they came from? A place they settled here? Whatever information you have is enough—a starting point for sessions and information gathering. What was going on1 in Ireland when they came to the United States? What was going on here? What were their lives like before and after immigration? You can find out a lot—without knowing specifics about your own family—from books, films, and Internet resources.

As I learned about my family’s story and the historical forces and events that impacted us, the sources of the patterns we carry became clear.

Get close to Irish-heritage people, inside and outside of RC.

My friendship with a distant cousin from Ireland has pushed me to face and discharge the U.S. distresses I carry and to understand how the strengths and struggles of an Irish-born person differ from mine.

As several of us in our Region2 have persistently claimed being Irish, many feelings (“this is not important”; “you don’t matter and neither does this identity”) have come up for discharge. I love the closeness we have forged.

Work on oppressor patterns.

• How have you benefited from the genocide of Native peoples?

• What is it like living on Native land today?

• What is your earliest memory of oppressing someone?

Learn Irish.

It is a great challenge for me to face the shame, humiliation, and discouragement I feel when I try to speak a word or phrase in Irish. Reclaiming any bits of the language is both hard and good. The Irish Liberation Policy will be available soon in Irish. What a triumph over language oppression!


Although our experience as U.S. Irish-heritage people differs from that of Irish-born people, we share with them many strengths and struggles. To explore these and connect with other Irish-heritage people, join the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of Irish-heritage people. You can do this by contacting Sheila Fairon3 at <>.

My deepest thanks to the Irish RCers in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, and elsewhere who launched and have built the RC Irish liberation project and who have been so welcoming and helpful to those of us from the diaspora.

I look forward to contact with you, and to reading your thoughts.

Le grá mór (Love),

Rita Davern
St. Paul, Minnesota 55105, USA

1 “Going on” means happening.
2 A Region is a subdivision of the International RC Community, usually consisting of several Areas (local RC Communities).
3 Sheila Fairon is the Regional Reference Person for Northern Ireland.


Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00