It is said the Irish are everywhere and that they know how to party. Of the 17.5 million living around the world, 491 are in Finland – this has doubled over the last four years. Like other minority groups they have come because of love and work that includes IT and software development and to teach English. There are some who have come on a whim: “Ach I just fancied something different”, as one lively fella recently told me over a pint of dry stout in one of Helsinki’s Irish pubs.
You could do worse than read William Trevor, one of the elder statesmen of the Irish literary world, to learn something about the Irish. In a career spanning over 50 years Trevor has yielded luminous portraits of Ireland and the essential goodness of her people. His writings make you want to dive more deeply into Irish culture, which is booming and highly appreciated in Finland. From Oulu, through Turku to Helsinki you can hear live music, try Irish dancing, visit exhibitions, watch sporting events and movies and, of course, drink the best whiskey in the world.
Apart from the Irish Embassy website, there are a number of organisations, including the Finnish-Irish Society, that organise events at different times throughout the year. The Irish Festival of Oulu is Finland’s premiere Irish festival, offering traditional Irish music, poetry, film, storytelling, dance, and theatre crammed into a four-day whirlwind of activities. For sport you could watch Gaelic football. The Helsinki Harps play in the Nordic championship against other teams from Tallinn, Malmö and Gothenburg. You should also keep your eye on Finland’s film festivals and check out its churches. In the past DocPoint showed Seán Ó Cualáin’s Men at lunch and Anúna, the world-renowned Irish choral ensemble, recently played in Temppeliaukio.
The only thing that you may not be able to get enough of in Finland is the difficult to wrap your tongue around Irish language. But if you do happen to come across a group of Irish people speaking Gaelic, I recommend that you join them to have a wee drink. Raise your glass and say Sláinte! (pronounced ‘slawn-cha’). You could always just fly to Dublin as many airlines, including Norwegian, are now offering cheap flights directly from Helsinki.