The French have Bastille Day on the 14th July. The Americans have Independence Day on the 4th July. Germany has Unity Day, on the 3rd October. Italy celebrates becoming a republic on the 25th April. All of these celebrations include the entire population, and they all happen during times of good weather.
What have we got? A day on the 17th March, named after an ancient cleric who might, or might not, have existed, taking place during the most miserable month of the entire year, and promoting an ideology that many of our people don’t support. How very Irish: let’s start with the split. Let’s have a national day that doesn’t represent all the citizens of our nation.
What would have been wrong with an Irish independence day, or a republic day, something that everyone could rally around? No. Instead, we have to celebrate a Dark-Ages lunatic preacher, and what’s more, we have to do it in the pissing rain, and we have the cheek to call the Calvinists miserable. What’s wrong with us? Don’t we have a reputation for partying and for being great fun? Apparently not, when there’s an opportunity for religious misery instead. We might like to party, but we love our misery even more.
Where’s this coming from? Well, of course, it has to come, as usual, from outside. Just as our puritanical dysfunction was imposed on us by Paul Cullen, a zealot from Rome, it seems the Saint Patrick’s Day phenomenon is largely a creation of a few ancient Irish-Americans, trapped in a bigoted, Catholic time-warp. If you looked at those fossilised Ancient Hibernians over there in America, you might easily think that being Irish and being Catholic are one and the same thing, especially when you consider that they have banned gay and lesbian participants in all their parades across the US. Full marks must go to our deputy prime minister, Eamon Gilmore, for refusing to attend the Hibernian dinner in Savannah because it’s a men-only affair with no women allowed.
Does anyone in Ireland really care about Saint Patrick’s Day? I don’t think so, apart from as an excuse to go out on the town, but it has a much greater resonance in the United States, among people who seem to believe that they own the franchise to Irishness.
Here in Ireland, it would be illegal to exclude a group from a parade on the grounds of sexual orientation , but not, apparently, in the Land of the Free.
Very well then. Isn’t it about time we gave these Irish-Americans full control of Saint Patrick’s Day? Let’s cut them adrift. Let’s be done with this embarrassing spectacle of Irish leaders giving American presidents a bowl of weeds every March. Instead, let’s allow the Ancient Order of Hibernians to work out their Catholic, sexually-repressed problems to their hearts’ content, while we select a new national day at a time of year when we can have proper parades, with a chance of sunshine and warmth.
I suggest mid-August, and I also suggest that we should have a national inclusion day. It’s true that Saint Patrick’s day in Ireland is fully inclusive, unlike the one run by our transatlantic bigoted relatives, but perhaps we need to make a clean break. It’s true that in Ireland, everyone is welcome to participate, regardless of religion, sexual orientation or skin colour, and shame on the Hibernians for not doing the same, but wouldn’t it be great if we went a step further, like any mature nation, and established a national day based on joyous events as opposed to dubious saints?
Let’s have a bit of self respect. Let’s dump the leprechauns and the fake beards. Let’s stop reflecting what the ancient Irish-Americans want us to be, and instead, let’s stand on our own feet.
Wouldn’t that be a far better testament to our young republic?