Like Family on Global Romances‘Due to circumstances, we were faced with having to split… I wasn’t ready to let him go’

As heard on RTÉ Radio 1

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Ireland is increasingly multi-cultural and along with that comes increasingly diverse partnerships and marriages, uniting people from all over the world on this once more homogenised island. The first episode on a new season of Like Family with Brenda Donohoe explores further. “My tag on twitter is Japanese American ex-pat – GAA mom,” said Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain who met her Irish husband when they were both studying in the University of Berkeley, California.  Rebecca is a senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology in Maynooth University, so she was the ideal person for Brenda to quiz about the prevalence of global romances here in Ireland.

“I think the thing to keep in mind is most marriages in Ireland are still white Irish people marrying white Irish people.  95% of white Irish people are married to other white Irish people so this is a small group of people that we’re talking about but the thing that’s interesting is that it started to really grow over time.  If we look at for example 2006 census data, we see that in more than a quarter of young couples, those with a mean age of 30 years of less, so younger people, at least one partner was of non-Irish nationality or non-white ethnicity.”

Rebecca said that Irish-born men with a foreign spouse are most likely to marry women from the UK, US, central Europe and Eastern Europe, whereas for Irish-born women, it’s the UK, US, central Europe and Africa.  One such coupling of an Irish-born woman and an African man is Heather and Shai who Brenda met in their home in Ratoath, Co Meath.  Shay is from Nigeria and their son Theo is growing up with a strong awareness of and identification with both cultures.  “My son will tell you… I’m Irish, I’m Nigerian,” said Shai.  “Sometimes we do communicate him in Nigerian.  He has a few words.”  Heather told Brenda,

Dr Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain

“I’ve been at Shai from day one to start talking to him in his language so he has some words that we use and he knows his family.  He has pictures all up over his wall of his family in Nigeria.  We haven’t travelled there yet with Theo but I suppose yeah you’ve walked in today to a very Irish looking house with the flag up and his jersey because of the rugby match but generally, we do have a lot of African memorabilia around.”

“Honestly the dancing was what sold it for me!” said Heather of the night she met Shay.  She was 18 and liked what she saw and when the time came for Shai to return to Nigeria due to visa issues, Heath took matters into her own hands and proposed to him, or more accurately, “I said to him, if you ask me nicely, I might say yes!”

“Due to circumstances, we were faced with having to split…  I wasn’t ready to take that step yet, to go to Nigeria or leave my family…  We made the move then to marry so the proposal came from me.  I wasn’t ready to let him go…  At the time, Nigeria was a lifetime away because there wasn’t phones, there wasn’t mobiles, there wasn’t FaceTime, there wasn’t, you know, cheap flights out there, I knew that once he went that was it, that was gone, we would have been out of each other’s lives forever so he yeah, he accepted my proposal!”

Like Family

Tonight Brenda Donohue takes a look at global romance as Like Family returns for it's second series at 10pm here on RTÉ Radio 1.

Posted by RTÉ Radio 1 on Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Like Family airs Wednesday’s at 10 pm on RTÉ Radio 1 and you can click here for more details

© The Listener 2018

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