How GAA helped me learn about Ireland as a Palestinian girl

Originally from Palestine, Halla shares her journey to calling Ireland home recalling the memories she treasures such as playing GAA in Croke Park.

Written by Halla


Hello. My name is Halla, I’m originally from Palestine and I was born in Jordan. I’m going to share a little bit about my life as a Palestinian girl living in Ireland. I came to Ireland when I was five years old. We came because my Dad got a new job in Dublin. Coming from Jordan to Ireland wasn’t an easy step for the whole family. When we came here, our English language was lacking.

I quickly started school, because when we came here, my Dad said, “We shouldn’t be just sitting at home, we need to learn the language. We need to meet people, we need to be more social.”

Leaving cert support

At the end of my fifth year, we moved, so of course, I had to move to school. This was so difficult for me because the Leaving Cert is two years and moving schools during that time were distracting. I really appreciate all the help from my teachers. They were very supportive and always there for me.

I used to have teachers that would always push me to do more activities like after school or during school. For example, I got involved in debating. I loved politics and society, that was my favourite subject and I had a very great teacher. They would always encourage me saying, “Oh, Halla, you should get involved in this. You should do this type of sport.”

Extra activities taught me so much

I really liked that encouragement because sometimes, especially during the Leaving Cert cycle, all I was thinking about was my grades and studying. So when I had people just pushing me to do things other than study, it was great and I needed that. I got involved in debating and public speaking and some other activities like athletics and it was amazing.

I really enjoy public speaking and debate, and I think it’s a great way to express my own thoughts and opinion. I think it’s really important to get involved in the Irish community here. It could be by joining a social club or a sports club. For example, I played Gaelic during primary and secondary school, and I really loved that because I met so many great girls on my team.

We’ve always done training together, went to matches together. We even played three matches in Croke Park Stadium, and I really enjoyed that it was such a great experience to have. By joining a sports club or social club or anything like that, you get to learn so much about Irish society.

Experiencing racism 

Racism is something that’s out there. There’s always going to be people out there that are going to just throw nasty comments at you. For example, I got so many nasty comments about my headscarf and it’s not nice. At the start, I always felt like, “why is it me? Is it because my scarf is like that? Or is it because of my religion?” 

I just kept having these negative thoughts. After a while, I realised that not everybody is like this. Some people actually love my headscarf, people love Islam. We need to learn how to act towards these nasty comments. Most importantly is when someone throws a nasty comment, I just walk away and ignore it.

I feel like there are people out there that are so curious about my religion or “what’s that thing on my head?” So if they’re curious and they’re asking questions, I’m so happy to answer them and that’s how we learn from each other. 

Feels like home

I’m very happy to be part of the Irish community here. No matter what country I go to, every time I come back to Ireland, I just feel like it’s home and it’s just the most amazing feeling ever. The Irish people here are very welcoming and they’re very sweet. I’m very proud to be a Palestinian living in Ireland.

This is part of the Fresh Éire collection of lived experience pieces from young people about living in Ireland, while experiencing racism and navigating identity and belonging.

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