Zeenie Summers came to Galway from Nigeria in 2010 after t he tragic death of her mother. She made the journey to live with her father in Ireland, only to discover he had a new family there, with a new partner.
Zeenie Summers dreamt about her mother the night before she died. In the dream, her mother had been in a road accident but Zeenie was unable to visit her in hospital. She spent the dream walking around the hospital corridors desperately searching for her mother’s room but never found it.
She woke up the following morning feeling very shaken and immediately told her mother what she had seen.
Her mother was getting ready for a cousin’s wedding on Lagos Island that afternoon and Zeenie helped by ironing her clothes and packing her bag.
Her mother dropped Zeenie’s younger brother and sister over to their grandparents’ house before catching a ferry to the wedding.
“I think I told her she looked beautiful just before she left.”
A short time later Zeenie’s aunt called the house and asked that she come join her siblings in her grandparents” house.
“When I got to the house there were loads of people inside. I knew something was up but they wouldn’t tell me. I was seventeen at the time and when they see you as a kid they won’t tell you anything.”
Zeenie eventually found out from her younger sister that there had been a problem with the boat crossing to the wedding. That evening her older cousin took her aside.
“He didn’t tell me my mum had died but said I would need to look after my younger siblings now. He told me not to be scared and that this was the time to be strong. My life took a complete turn that day.”
The following morning, Zeenie was told the bad news. Her mother had drowned along with nearly forty others in the ferry accident. Her body was brought to the family’s home and Zeenie was told to say goodbye.
“They had laid my mum on my bed but there was no privacy for us to be with her. She didn’t look dead; she just looked like she had been cleaned. She looked like herself, almost as if she was smiling.”
After the funeral, Zeenie and her siblings were sent to live with their grandmother. They were used to living in an apartment in Lagos with running water and a generator, yet suddenly they were in a different part of the city taking showers in a tiny outdoor cubicle. The family waited to hear from Zeenie’s father who had moved to Ireland in 2000. For years Zeenie had been hoping for his return, dreaming of the day her father would come back to his family in Nigeria.
“He was only meant to go to Ireland for a year but then one year turned into a decade. We just kept waiting and waiting. He never visited but kept in touch by phone. Every year was a tomorrow that never came. We were waiting for him to come back to Nigeria or we would join him. But my dad liked Ireland too much and decided to start a new life here.”
When Zeenie’s father called after the ferry accident to say he had applied to the Irish government for his children to join him in Ireland, Zeenie told him she wasn’t leaving.
She was studying Literature and Mass Communication at university in Lagos and was not prepared to leave her life and move to an island she knew nothing about.
Zeenie’s father eventually convinced his daughter to try life in Ireland. The three siblings arrived on Valentine’s Day 2010 where they finally met their father’s ‘other family’.
They knew he now had two children with his partner in Ireland but believed he was living separately from them. On arrival, they discovered they would all live in a house together.
“I expected to come here and join my father after losing my mum. I was looking forward to feeling secure and being happy again. Coming from the disappointment of my mother’s death, my whole life fell upside-down after the move to Galway. I felt so alone.”
Zeenie also discovered that, without a Leaving Cert qualification, she was unable to study at a university.
Her father was eager for his daughter to go back to school, sit her Leaving Cert and study medicine. However, Zeenie made other plans.
She moved to Dublin and enrolled in a Level 5 journalism course in Dún Laoghaire. Having taken classes in music and theatre in Nigeria, the first thing she did when she arrived in the capital was to look for a choir to join.
“I found the choir in January 2011. If it hadn’t been for Discovery Gospel Choir I wouldn’t have given Ireland a chance, I would have moved away. But they became my family.”
After an internship with a news publication, Zeenie ended up back in Galway working in the Next clothing store. She tried moving back in with her father and his new family but struggled to adjust.
She wanted to go back to Dublin but didn’t even have enough money to pay for accommodation in Galway. She ended up registering as homeless with Galway City Council and moved to the YMCA in Dublin.
“I could have gone back home to my father’s house but I felt worse than alone there. There was no love for me in his home; no emotional or moral support, no hope and no future.”
Zeenie stayed in the YMCA for three months and with the help of a social worker she signed up for welfare benefits and applied for financial support to go back into third level education. She found that her love of sewing and fashion design helped clear her mind.
As she gradually settled into life in Ireland, she grew accustomed to the feeling of being different and having black skin in a predominantly white community.
“I didn’t know I was black until I came here. I didn’t know I was limited, I didn’t know people got things according to their colour, it didn’t occur to me. The first year in Ireland I didn’t consider myself black, I didn’t even consider myself Nigerian, I just considered myself Zeenie.”
In 2013 Zeenie met her boyfriend David. Building a strong relationship with another person helped her to finally put some roots down in her Irish home.
“It’s good to have a best friend in a country that’s not your own. Having a person like him makes life much more fun and far more bearable.”
Eight years on from her death, Zeenie is coming to terms with her mother’s absence.
“It took me a long time to look at myself and say I am who I am because of my mother. I thought she just brought us up and rubbed off on us but the more I go through life’s challenges and think about my life choices, the more I realise how similar we are.”
Zeenie is now a singer-songwriter and fashion designer who runs her own online business making custom-made clothes for customers across Ireland.
“I’ve sold clothing across Ireland in Limerick, Cork, Galway and the Aran Islands and also in the UK and the Netherlands. I’m not making as much as I would like but it’s not as little as I would have feared either. I think if it became too much more I would be overwhelmed.”
She has completed a diploma in Business and Law at Rathmines College and gigs with a number of bands around Ireland. She also joined The Waterboys as a backing singer on a two-month tour around Europe.
“When I got the request to go on tour the first person I thought to call was mum. In the past, the realisation that my mum isn’t around anymore would be a shock. But it’s been eight years now so I’m getting used to it. There are times when I do want to ring her, I still have her phone number in my phone.”
She remains in contact with her father and visits him in Galway occasionally. “He’s older now and you can’t keep beating someone for their mistakes. As I’ve grown up here I’ve realised he has to live with the consequences of his decisions. I don’t need to forgive him and he doesn’t owe me anything anymore.
“Obviously it would have been better if my mother had stayed alive but if she hadn’t died, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I would have had no reason to come to Ireland and would probably have gone down a different route in life. But everything that has happened in my life has led from that and I’m very thankful for that.”
In 2017 Zeenie became an Irish citizen. She was not planning to apply for citizenship but was tired of paying the high cost of visas for trips abroad. However, on the day of the ceremony she was surprised by the happiness she felt.
“The sense of pride on the day was because I’m happy that I’m now a part of Ireland and not a part of Nigeria. Nigeria did not provide anything for me, it was always my mother who provided for me. And when I was bold and tough enough to go out on my own here and fight for something to better myself, the Irish government supported me. They gave me access to education courses.
“Ireland has done so much more for me than Nigeria.”
■ New to the Parish: Stories of Love, War and Adventure from Ireland’s Immigrants is written by Sorcha Pollak. The book is an inspiring chronological timeline of personal stories of migration – from Cameroon to Myanmar, Poland to New York, Nigeria to Venezuela, Iraq to Syria – and back home again. Published by New Ireland Books, it is available in all good bookstores now.
Connacht Tribune tributes to loved ones
These past few months have seen so many communities left to silently mourn family members and friends, whose funerals they would have attended in such numbers, were it not for the current Covid-19 restrictions.
But those that are gone have not been, and will not be, forgotten – which is why we want to open the pages of the Connacht Tribune to you to tell their stories.
If you’ve lost a loved one, whether to Covid-19 or not, or if your community or organization or sports club is mourning the death of a valued member and friend, you can email us your tribute and we will publish it in our papers.
All you have to do it to click on the above link, and it will take you to a short set of questions which you can fill in – and then add whatever you feel tells the story of the life of your friend, family member or colleague.
You can email that with a photograph to us, to email@example.com or you can post it to ‘Obituaries’, Connacht Tribune, 21 Liosban Business Park – and please enclose a contact number in case we have any queries.
We sympathise with anyone who has lost a loved one at this awful time, particularly given that so many people were unable to mourn with them and their family in person – and we hope that this will help in some small way to show those family members that we are all united in grief, even from a distance.
This is an additional feature we are providing alongside our long-established weekly Family Notices section where loved ones are remembered immediately by Months Mind Notices and annual anniversary remembrances. You can contact our team for further details at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shopping local, supporting local business is more important now than ever before
When we shop locally, we are not just supporting a local business; we are looking after our own communities. And we need to look after each other, and protect our communities, now more than ever.
We urge all our readers to support your community, support your town and support each other.
The Connacht Tribune is supporting local businesses which remain open and continue to trade despite the introduction of Level 5 restrictions.
Each day, on our website and social channels, the Connacht Tribune will publish a list of local businesses who are open for business and providing a service to their customers during lockdown.
While only essential retailers are allowed to operate as normal during Level 5, all retailers are allowed to operate a “click and collect” service under the regulations.
If you want to appear on the list please contact our Advertising Department at 091 536222
Here are today’s list of businesses:
Cló Iar-Chonnacht is a publishers and Irish-language book shop based in An Spidéal and online at www.cic.ie.
The company, which is celebrating 35 years in business this year, stocks a wide range of books in Irish for young and old as well as a selection of traditional music CDs.
Their annual sale is running from 1 – 23 December and they are offering a click and collect service as well as postal delivery for online and phone orders.
Orders can be placed online at www.cic.ie 24/7 and there is also a phone ordering service from Monday to Friday at 091 593307.
We are OPEN
Contact: 091 791273
Opening hours are:
7:30a.m. – 5.00 p.m. Monday to Friday
9.00 a.m. – 12.00 p.m. Saturdays
CLIFDEN BIKE SHOP
We sell on line and you can click and collect.
Contact number is 09522630
Vouchers – yes yes – we sell vouchers.
Our email address is clifdenbikeshop.ie
Sarsfield Rd, Townparks, Ballinasloe.
Chadwicks Group operates nationwide and are the #1 Builders Merchants and Home Improvement Specialist in Ireland.
From building & plumbing materials to DIY supplies & equipment hire. We’re here to help with all your home or building projects. Let’s Get It Done.
Monday 8am – 5pm
Tuesday 8am – 5pm
Wednesday 8am – 5pm
Thursday 8am – 5pm
Friday 8am – 4pm
Saturday 9am – 1pm
Phone – 09096 42212
Your Local Co-op in Athenry
Number: 0818 222 272
OH! BY GUM
We are doing click and collect or you can order online on www.ohhbygum.ie or phone 0858000377 Clifden, Co Galway.
Vouchers available both digital for website and for use instore.
We believe fashion should be good for the planet and good for the people who make it too. It’s why we source everything we sell from makers and suppliers who share our vision.
It’s why all the items in our range are ethically produced and include organic, vegan, sustainable and recycled options.
It’s why we try and ensure that the people who make our products are fairly paid for what they do. We also believe that being conscious of what you buy, shouldn’t mean sacrificing value, quality or style.
Which is why you’ll not only look good wearing our clothes. You’ll feel good too.
ALL THINGS CONNEMARA
Market Street Clifden
Telephone 095 22360
Vouchers available, we are also doing click or call and collect.
Pure Natural focuses on sourcing premium and local products and bringing them to your doorstep.
We have a unique range of natural and organic beverages, Irish cosmetics and handcrafts that are all available for home delivery.
Our Christmas Gift Boxes contain the finest of beverages and all our food products are sourced in the west of Ireland.
Please order online www.purenatural.ie or contact Padraic Conroy on 086-2382616.
We deliver for FREE in Galway city or alternatively anywhere else in Ireland for €7.35.
Corrib Oil, 9 Abbey Trinity, Tuam 093 26772
Corrib Oil, 37-79 Brackernagh, Ballinasloe 090 9646054
Corrib Oil, 2 The Hill, Dublin Rd, Loughrea 091 841003
Corrib Oil, Crowe Street, Gort 091 631818
Tuam Road, Galway City 091 751311
CLAYTON HOTEL GALWAY
Open for essential workers
Click and Collect Menu available.
Gift vouchers available
EYRE SQUARE DENTAL CLINIC
As an essential service We are open during level 5 restrictions.
We are located at the bottom of Eyre Square, opposite the AIB Bank on the corner.
Phone – 091 562932
DUANES HARDWARE AND FOODSTORE
Kiltulla, Athenry, Galway.
Duanes Hardware is located in the Heart of Kiltullagh village.
We are a family run local business operating since 1940’s.
- Building supplies • Agri & Fertiliser • DIY Supplies • Delivery service
- Filling Station • Deli (hot & Cold), 9 grams Coffee station • National Lottery • Postpoint Services
Tel: +353 91 848019 Fax: +353 91 848984
16 Eyre Square, Galway
Berwick Solicitors, Galway is a full-service firm with offices in Galway, Dublin and Clare.
Phone – 091 – 567545
Email – email@example.com
SALMONS DEPARTMENT STORE
Main Street, Ballinasloe
Our new online store is now Live
Courier delivery and same day click and collect available
Phone- 09096 42120
Tuam Road, Galway 091 752561
Sean Mulvoy Road, Galway
18 Shop St, Galway.
Anthony Ryans Homestore Ltd.
7 Lombard Street. Galway.
Phone : 091 539627
Shop for Homewares, Bedlinen, Luggage and Curtains online at:
South Galway Office 0761 07 2570
National Helpline 076 107 2000
Tuam Road Retail Centre, Tuam Rd, Galway, H91 NX64
Main dealers for Massey Ferguson
Whelan’s also deal with a range of manufacturers including Fendt, Honda, Husqvarna, Draper and more.
Long established business with 3 locations in Clare and South Galway. Employs over 40 staff
Loughrea Depot – 091 880050 Contact Padraig 087 6755189
Kilrush Depot – 065 9051147
Ennis Depot – 065 6822272
Newcastle Road Foodhall, Galway
We’re open for instore shopping and collection orders 24/7 and offer a delivery service from 9am – Late (2am weekdays and 4am at weekends).
Our phone number is 091-585708 and our website is www.londisonline.ie.
We also have an app that’s available on Google Play and the App Store.
Farrell Auctioneers, Valuers & Estate Agents LTD
Courtney House, George’ s St, Gort.
091 – 632688
086 – 2455925
Our doors maybe closed but we are still working please feel free to contact us anytime. In the current lockdown 5 guidelines we can carry out viewings and valuations.
Kinvarra, Moy Road, Co. Galway, H91 XD52
091 637317 / 091 638126 / 091 561677
Supplying your Home Heating Needs for the past 25 years
– Serving Galway City & County and North Clare
– Super 6 Day Delivery
– Same Day Delivery for “Out of Oil” Customers
– Competitive Prices – Guaranteed
– Prompt Delivery Services
– Gift Vouchers Available
– Authorised EMO Distributor
Corrandulla, Co Galway
Parklawn Tree Services Ltd
Church Park, Tremane, Roscommon, Co. Roscommon F42Y767
Professional tree surgery & Arboricultural Consultancy
Parklawn Tree Services is a professional tree surgery and arboricultural consulting company providing a wide range of services to customers and clients across Ireland. Since 1998, we have steadily expanded our business to cover a wide range of land based services; from small urban garden trees to the large rural forests.
We provide sensitive domestic tree care to large-scale commercial tree surgery contracts.
Office: 086 6077307
Enda Stephens: 086 8125165
John Nolan: 086 6077302
Garrett Murphy: 087 9059892
Lorraine Brennan: 087 9836302
Delight Café, Renmore Avenue, Galway
Delight Health Café in Galway is striving to promote good food and drinks. This is done using the most fresh and top quality ingredients, and as many local suppliers as possible! Come check us out… Fabulous-food-fast!
Tel: 091 761466
The Twelve Hotel,
Barna Village, Galway
Telephone: 091 597012
Drive Through – Wednesday to Sunday 1pm to 8pm and Friday/Sat 9pm
Oranmore Lodge Hotel
We have a wide range of gift vouchers available for the festive season.
They are an ideal gift for a loved one, ranging from dining, hotel stays and leisure club vouchers.
All vouchers available to purchase online
www.oranmorelodge.ie or call us on 091 794400
Meadow Court Hotel
Looking for that ideal gift for your loved one this Christmas ?
Why not purchase a meadow court hotel gift voucher
By website- www.meadowcourthotel.com
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone- 091- 851051
The team at Topline Flynns and Flynns of Lackagh Ltd. is very proud to be serving the community in Lackagh, Co. Galway and its environs for the past 170 years. Our dedicated group of well trained, professional and long serving staff are always on hand, striving to ensure customer service, quality and value are at the forefront.
Telephone: 091 797116
2020 has really highlighted the importance of looking after our physical and mental health, and what better way to treat your loved ones or reward your employees this Christmas than with the gift of an exhilarating adventure at Wildlands. Vouchers available to suit all budgets from €20 stocking fillers to corporate bundles.
Looking for fast, reliable Broadband Internet in Galway? Lightnet is a leading provider of broadband and landline service to homes and businesses. We can offer you options to best suit your individual needs.
Telephone 091 395804
McD’s Garden Centre Galway
Galway Irish Crystal Centre Merlin Park, Old Dublin Rd, Galway, H91 NN56
McD’s Garden Centre Loughrea
The Green, Loughrea, Co. Galway, H62 Y668
Christmas trees at McD’s! Nothing says Christmas like having your living room decorated with a beautiful Christmas tree. Here at McD’s we look to offer the best range of artificial Christmas trees in Ireland at the best possible value. We deliver across Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Connemara Gifts at Peacockes Hotel Maam Cross
Free Local Collection
Gift Wrapping Available
A family run gift shop based in the heart of Connemara, selling a wide range of carefully selected Irish giftware
Phone 091 552 306
Lydons Carpets and Flooring
Moycullen, Co. Galway.
Open for all essential trade
Phone -091 555962
Tom Dempsey Flooring
Our measurement services continues for new builds, extensions and unoccupied homes and businesses
Click and collect in operation
Contactless delivery remains fully operational
Phone- 091 795777
King reigns supreme with Connemara roots!
‘Heart-warming’ is how CNN’s John King describes the outpouring of affection he’s received from these shores over the past couple of weeks, since the news network’s Chief National Correspondent confirmed that his family heritage is firmly rooted in Connemara.
While the bookies have been busy taking bets on when Joe Biden will touch down on Irish soil, anticipation has been building in Galway for the return of one of its own – the man who had the undivided attention of countless Irish households over the course of a painstaking US election count that gripped the world.
Speaking to the Connacht Tribune from his home in Washington DC this week, King says the response he’s had from Irish viewers has taken him by surprise, but provided some much-needed comic relief amid hours of gruelling live television coverage.
“It has surprised me, and some of it is my own doing, in that I responded to a ‘is John King Irish?’ Tweet. When I’m in the live TV craziness, every now and then when I have two minutes, I just look for comic relief. I was flipping through Twitter and I said ‘always’, so I decided to just type it,” he laughs.
“That’s just me trying to find 30 seconds of comic relief or normalcy or fun in the madness of the election.”
It was later that he told someone else on Twitter that ‘it all begins in Doonloughan’ starting a flurry of interest in the veteran journalist.
He has since revealed that his grandparents, Christy ‘Festy’ King and Bridget Joyce, were from North Connemara, making their respective journeys to Boston in the early 1900s.
Read the full interview with CNN’s John King in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie