As a child, I knew something was up in my family.
When I was seven, I was the only one of my family who wasn’t wearing a red tie.
I grew up in a small village in County Cork, where we could not have a car or a bicycle without the help of a lorry driver.
My father and mother were both Irish Catholic.
I don’t remember exactly how I got to know my grandparents, but it’s safe to say that when I was a young teenager, they were not on my radar.
I am a Protestant and, despite my family’s history of living peacefully and without conflict, I did not fit the mould of an Irish Catholic child.
When I was 13, I moved to Dublin to pursue my studies in the University of Dublin.
I spent most of my time in the city working as a receptionist, but one day, I came upon a book on the history of Irish Christianity on the front door of the building.
I immediately realised that my parents’ faith was more important to me than any of the rest of my classmates.
I was raised in a Catholic family and, unlike many, I felt like I belonged somewhere.
I didn’t belong to any church, so it was not until I attended a Protestant seminary in the 1980s that I could fully feel at home.
I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be a Catholic.
It was at the end of this seminary period that I realised I could not fully be an Irish Christian because of my faith.
In my early twenties, I enrolled at Trinity College Dublin, and by the time I graduated in 1984, I had become a professor in the history department.
My academic work was an important part of my identity.
The Catholic Church was a very distant second to my Catholic identity, and the church that I joined was in a very different place to the one I felt comfortable with.
My conversion to Catholicism coincided with the arrival of a new generation of students, many of whom had experienced persecution at the hands of the Irish government.
They were coming to Ireland for the first time as refugees, and their faith had been deeply rooted in their past.
My conversion to the Church of Ireland was not only about me becoming a Catholic but about my identity becoming something else entirely.
It didn’t matter if I was Irish or not, I wanted my identity to be something different.
At first, I thought it would be a bit of a shock to join a religion where there were so many negative stereotypes.
The majority of the people I knew in Ireland were quite conservative.
They knew that the Catholic Church had a reputation for being homophobic and for being intolerant of other religions.
But the truth was, I belonged to a religious minority, and it was an identity that was not recognised by the majority.
During my conversion, I realised that I was living in a time when Irishness was very much on the decline.
Irishness had been the cultural norm, and Irishness wasn’t being celebrated.
Ireland had become the country of the bacchanals and the opium dens.
Irish people in particular were struggling to reclaim their identity and, as a result, were becoming less and less Irish.
In my new faith, I also felt that Ireland was being abandoned.
My Catholic parents were still part of the family, but now I had a very personal identity and my religious beliefs were being taken away from me.
The next generation of Irish Catholics had a different experience.
My parents were a Catholic and a member of a very large and successful Irish diocese, which meant they had a lot of financial support from the government.
I also had a family and my own school, which helped me feel more connected to Ireland.
My family and I were happy, so when my father decided to leave Ireland to go to the United States in the early 90s, I decided to follow.
I joined the Irish-American community and found myself drawn to the new culture of the US.
In the 90s and 2000s, the American culture was so different to Ireland’s that my Irishness didn’t register for me, even though my family and friends knew me as Irish.
There was a moment when I realised my Irish identity was not just an identity, but also a religious identity.
My identity as Irish was so intertwined with my Irish religion that I found it difficult to accept my new identity as Catholic.
In 2005, when I went to Ireland to receive my PhD, I discovered I was an Irish-Canadian and had been living in Toronto for many years.
My Irishness became a part of who I was.
Being an Irish Canadian meant that I had to conform to certain stereotypes of what it meant to be Irish.
I had no choice but to accept that I wasn’t Irish enough, and that I would be rejected if I wanted a Catholic education.
In some ways, I found myself in the position of a young person who, for all the good that my family, my friends and the Church had