There aren’t too many times in my life that I have been embarrassed to be Irish but being assumed to be a beer lovin’ Paddy that enjoys nothing more than a pint and a fight on Paddy’s Day is one of them.
Ashamed of the paddywhackery that seems to the have framed the essence of Irishness is nothing short of cringe-worthy for a native Irish person who has an aversion to everything and anything associated with the paddywhackery syndrome that appears to be a worldwide affliction on 17th March. Downright insulting are the T-shirts donning images of the fighting Irish and boozed up bogmen. Degrading are the promotion signs ‘get plastered on Paddys’ and leave it to those who wear a ‘Pog Mo Thoin’ badge, who proudly send the general message to the world to kiss their arse, surely not the sentiment that is representative of all the people of Ireland but certainly the message that a small percentage of Irish are tarring the rest of the nation with.
Somehow it wasn’t so bad when it was only ourselves, we knew that the gimmicky T-Shirts and all the daft paddywhackery was a joke, a bit of craic. It’s not until you move from Ireland that you become more patriotic, you begin to take being Irish seriously, and you want the world to take us seriously too. You strive to be become an ambassador for your country and set out on a mission to dismantle the reputation that the Irish have earned worldwide.
Not as easy as it may seem as the world laughs along at the connotations about the Irish being aggressive and drunk and many Irish are only too happy to support and even promote the reputation. The Scots get away lightly with insinuations of being tight-fisted, the Spanish for being feisty, the French for being argumentative or the English for not being to take a joke and taking themselves too seriously in general. Not the Irish, we get labelled as a nation of alcoholics and halfwits and we join in the toast, raising our glasses of green coloured vodka with gusto.
Where did it all go wrong? How did we regress from the Patricks Day I remember where children wore a simple satin badge of the tricolour and a harp. Le Feile Padraig was a day that began with mass, a day that was a celebration of the Saint Patrick a celebration of Irishness, and community, the essence of Irishness. Adults wore a clump of shamrock on their breastpocket to show their pride in all that is unique about Ireland. All stood blue with the cold but brimming with excitement as a parade consisting of five or six open backed lorries driving through the town was enough to evoke awe and wonder to the children and kept us all amused for hours. All things local and indigenous to the community were displayed with pride, farm machinery, vintage cars, Irish dancers and brass bands were marched through the town, a showcase of the best that Ireland had to offer and not a plastic shillelagh in sight. The highlight was being able to break lent with only the most stalwart of abstainers upholding their promise to Our Lord to revoke chocolate for seven weeks.
Somehow over time it changed, through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder, it grew and shrunk in equal measures. It grew to become a worldwide celebration, another Hallmark day, another platform for mass produced tat, however it shrunk in significance, it lost its lacquer and beneath lay a cheap nasty chipboard, unresilient to saturation and porous to materialism.
We want to be noted for our sporting achievements, our musical prowess, our talented actors and timeless playwrights, poets and the GAA, not images of red cheeked leprechauns dancing gaily without spilling a drop of their frothy pints.