Wednesday, 17 March 2010

What no shamrock, Brian?

St Patrick’s day is a festival that has lost its way. When I was a child it did not mean, as it seems to do now, even for those who have no connection with Ireland, going to a bar and getting hammered. Instead it was about asserting our Irish identity. All day long we wore the shamrock which had been sent over to us, packaged in damp cotton wool, by our relatives in Ireland.

We did so with defiance because it inevitably meant running the gauntlet of insults at school since being Irish was not cool then, as it seems to have become now. IRA bombs were going off at regular intervals. Irish people, far from being lovable comedy rogues with sexy accents, were, at best, the butt of jokes about the famous stupidity of the Celt, at worst the hate-filled Muslims of the nineteen seventies.

All that has changed. March the seventeenth has become a festival of drink, a part of the marketing strategy of Guinness. It has been annexed by politically correct councils who feel it is appropriate to spend council tax payers' money promoting Irish cultural events but who would never dream of using the same funds to promote events on St George’s day. It does not belong to the Irish any more. It is simply another stop on the global cultural bus route.

6 comments:

Marion Urch said...

We may no longer have a bunch of wet shamrock pinned to our chests but we still know what day it is and what it means - it's a thin thread of connection linking the past to the present and linking Irish people wherever they are and from whatever generation. It's still a commemoration day, despite the commodification. With a new wave of emigrants leaving Ireland, it may regain some resonance.

Happy St Patrick's day!

Brian Keaney said...

Good point, as always, Marion. Happy St Patrick's Day to you, too!

Paul said...

The father of a boyhood friend -- by the last name of Gilligan -- said that St. Patrick's Day was for all of the people who wished they were Irish. Without exception all of the people of Irish descent I have known have been wonderful people. The closest I can claim to Irish heritage is a bit of Scottish ancestry, so I can't do more than wish I was Irish. Tonight I will have some beer bread to go along with my kale soup, a meal, by the way, I picked up in my brief stay in Kenya. We are a multicultural world.

Brian Keaney said...

Wishing is good enough for me. Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig, Paul!

Sarah Bromley said...

While my family's full mutt with just enough Scottish to know which clan we're from, my kids are still wearing green and I've got Irish soda bread in the oven. Happy St. Pat's to you!

Brian Keaney said...

And to you, Sarah!