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Out of Ireland by Mark O’Neill – FCC Book Talk

Showcasing his latest book Out of Ireland, author Mark O’Neill held an informative and humorous talk about the Irish diaspora across Asia.

O’Neill began with the life-changing discovery of his father’s Irish accent in his teenage years. Up until that point, he had lived his entire life in London and had no idea he was Irish. His father had never spoken in his true voice after years of developing a “perfect BBC” accent in order to advance in his career.

“For the first time, my sister and I realized that our father wasn’t the person we thought he was,” O’Neill said.

Since then, O’Neill took it upon himself to learn more about his heritage and what it really means to be an Irish citizen in the world, and eventually recorded everything he learned in Out of Ireland.

Throughout his travels – especially throughout Asia – he met all walks of life hailing from his father’s homeland: athletes, businessmen, musicians, nurses, police officers, and even priests.  

O’Neill went into further detail on the parts of his book that highlighted Irish people living in Hong Kong. He elaborated on Sister Mary Aquinas, one of the twelve Irish nurses that helped eradicate tuberculosis from the city, as well as Father Patrick McGovern, the Jesuit Legislative Council member who represented the working class of Hong Kong and what O’Neill described as “a pretty amazing thing.”

The second half of O’Neill’s talk explored the ways in which Chinese people from Hong Kong, mainland China, and Taiwan had influenced Ireland, namely opening restaurants, building churches, and in the case of Hazel Chu, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, becoming an elected official.

When pressed further by one of the lunch talk’s attendees on Chinese influence on Ireland, specifically Hong Kong’s influence on the nation, O’Neill also mentioned university students, fintech and pharmaceutical professionals, and Kwanghi Chan, a Hong Kong-born celebrity chef who’s become a household name in Ireland.

Watch the full book talk below:

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