Replacing ESB building on Fitzwilliam Street

Sam Stephenson was a barbarian in an Ireland where the barbarian was a hero.

He was a thug who brutalised our cityscapes and a fraud who seduced our policy-makers in an age when any sharp-talking charlatan could schmooze his way into a lucrative public contract.

But the one thing Sam Stephenson was not is an architect.

Leave aside the fact that he had no qualifications.

Leave aside the fact that he had no talent.

Instead, focus on the fact that he had no soul.

This is the sort of man lionised by the Ireland of the 1970s and 1980s.  The neo-thug who embodied a vision of a new, modern Ireland unencumbered by notions of heritage, continuity or tradition.  Sam Stephenson, untrained self-titled architect was the perfect poster-boy for the Ireland that wished to cast off its old traditional image and replace itself with a new, flashy concrete-and-plastic pastiche.

In a painful, if unconscious, echo of Ireland a century before him, an Ireland that saw its Irish-speaking tradition as somehow emblematic of a shameful and outdated identity, Stephenson cast off the architectural language that had brought Dublin to the pinnacle of Georgian perfection and replaced that language with his own crude, unlettered gutter-speak.

Stephenson shouted down the measured Georgian architectural language of 18th century Dublin with two brutal and ignorant expletives in the form of the ESB offices at Fitzwilliam Street and the Dublin Corporation headquarters at Wood Quay.  By designing these two buildings, he leaned in and cursed at tradition in the most drunken spit-flecked way imaginable.  He destroyed a mile-long Georgian street to provide the ESB with their shabby pre-cast office block and he tore up Viking Dublin to build the bunkers in which the Corporation wished to hide from the public it served.

Never mind his later facile justification that he didn’t have a chance to complete his vision  on Wood Quay. The reality is that his vision was crass, illiterate and overbearing. This man had no business dictating the shape of any city, much less the capital of our country with official support and considerable financial reward.

He was, and remains, a charlatan.

Now. What are we to make of Fitzwilliam Street in 2015?

fitzwilliam street

The ESB wishes to reconstruct its headquarters, having vandalised the finest Georgian street in existence.

Should they be forced to reinstate the original facades?

I don’t think so, since the interiors were torn out and destroyed by the barbarian thugs acting on Stephenson’s orders, in pursuit of his ignorant unlettered vision for a new Dublin.  Pastiche doesn’t work, as the ridiculous Ballast Office in Westmoreland Street  demonstrates, so what should we have instead?

In my opinion, we should accept that Fitzwilliam Street was irrevocably vandalised by the ESB and by Sam Stephenson, thus depriving us forever of an architectural treasure.   And we should move on.

We should demand that the ESB produce a design of internationally-acclaimed merit, no matter how much it costs them to make good their crime, but we should not insist that they reproduce the original Georgian streetscape.


Because it wouldn’t be the original Georgian streetscape and it would therefore be meaningless.  Instead, they need to address the street and its surroundings in a meaningful way, with sensitivity, which would make an interesting contrast with Georgian times when nobody cared how brutally or suddenly the streetscape changed.

Let us preserve all that remains of our Georgian heritage.  Let us lament what we have stupidly destroyed. But let’s not sink to idiocy and try to recreate what we cannot.

We should get rid of the abomination inflicted on us by Sam Stephenson and embrace thoughtful, sensitive replacements even if they don’t happen to be slavish reproductions of 18th-century Dublin.

It’s all about showing respect to our heritage, something not always evident in Ireland over the last century.


Halloween Lunacy Exposes Deep Flaws in Irish Culture

Last night I stepped outside my house to breathe in the sweet, clean, autumn air and instantly caught the aroma of Hallowe’en on the wind.  That  familiar acrid smell of burning plastic that still hangs over the city a full day later.

I went to visit a friend who’s unwell and unable to get out of bed.  The house was in darkness.  Why?

Maybe if they think there’s no-one home, they won’t throw eggs.

Is this what we’re reduced to?  Adults afraid of children?  So it seems, but you can hardly blame the children for running crazy if the parents allow it because after all, children do what children do.  No?


Children do what their parents teach them, and these kids seem to have learned nothing because their parents have no values.

I’d be very slow to start talking about the old days, considering the amount of darkness we have in our past, not just here in Ireland but in every single country you can think of.  The old days weren’t so great.  After all, it was in the old days that National Socialism sprang up, and we know where that took us.  It was in the old days that we had the Industrial Schools,  so let’s not have too much nostalgia for the old days, but why is there so much random thuggery knocking around these days?  Or more to the point, so much boorishness?

I’m not imagining it.  As every week goes by, I can see the behaviour getting worse, and I can see an appalling underclass becoming stronger and stronger, people who care nothing for the ordinary citizen.  Just this evening, I was in the queue at the Aldi checkout and a young couple were in front of me.  They had all the marks of what I’d consider skobies and I said to myself, No.  Don’t jump to conclusions just because he has a pudding-bowl haircut and his woman is spray-tanned from head to toe.  Ignore those giant earrings and that black-dyed hair.

So I did.  I ignored everything about them, and after I paid for my groceries and went outside, I tried to ignore the fact that their fucking Passat was parked across three disabled spaces in the middle of the road while the fat, orange spray-tanned fuckers blocked the entire car-park with no consideration at all for anyone else.  And I waited until they were ready, without blowing the horn, but not because I’m a placid soul.  No indeed.  It was because I didn’t want the pumped-up, steroid-inflated numpty with the pudding-bowl haircut to kill me.

I have to wonder what causes this.

Why are people so disconnected from the world around them?  Why, for instance, was Dublin fire brigade  called out to something in the order of 1,500 incidents, including cases where cars were stolen and driven into bonfires?  Why can I still smell poisonous fumes in the air a full day after Hallowe’en?

When I was a kid, Hallowe’en wasn’t an excuse to get drunk.   It was an opportunity for children to have fun.

LIkewise, at New Year, all the local brass and reed bands used to march to the city centre for the New Year.  They’d play in the street as people counted down to midnight, and then all the church bells would ring, and the ships in the docks would blow their foghorns.  After that the bands would play some more until eventually everyone went home, but it was a huge thing for children to stay up that late.

And then, as years went by, the bands had to stop playing in the street because the thugs had taken over.   It was no longer safe.

At Christmas, people used to go to Midnight Mass, but that had to stop because of people fighting and puking at the back of the church.

There’s been a change and we tolerated this, and there’s no point blaming the authorities.  We, as a society, accepted the rule of thuggery and it’s up to us to resist it.

I wonder if all this insane, boorish behaviour is because people have no anchor any more?  Maybe they don’t understand that the city belongs to all of us and that we’re all equally responsible for maintaining a decent civilised life together.

I fully sympathise with those who say we should have snipers on the rooftops.  It’s a feeling I often have myself, but that isn’t going to solve anything in the end.  We need a much more nuanced solution to the thing that has overtaken us and it has to come in stages.  Stage One is to make sure we’re safe from the lunatics roaming our streets, and that involves a far more robust security presence while we develop Stage Two: teaching these fools how to behave like civilised human beings.

Stage Three?  For fools who can’t learn to behave, keep them out of harm’s way for as long as it takes.

Meanwhile, start teaching the children about the place they come from.  Show them that this is a place we all inhabit together with a shared history and a shared outlook on life.

Most of all, let’s start teaching them about respect, because that’s where it all stems from: respect for ourselves and respect for others.  Without those two things, it’s not possible to have a functioning society.

It’s very simple.  This is how I’d rearrange things.  If you choose to be part of our society, welcome, no matter where you come from.  If you choose to reject our  society, you’re not entitled to our protection.  You have no rights here.  It’s up to you.


All Souls

Candles are the most evocative things in the world, the closest thing to life in the sphere of the inanimate.

When I was a child, the old people used to light a candle on the eve of All Souls, in remembrance of those who had gone before, and I’d like to try and revive that tradition. It doesn’t have to be religious. The tradition is ancient, long pre-dating Christianity, and it’s something we need to bring back, because we are a people who have forgotten our dead.

If we are to heal our society, we must recover our lost traditions, and regain a respect for things that are not simply material.

That’s why, tonight, I’m putting a candle in the window.

It isn’t for the dead. It’s for me, for those who pass my door, and for those I hold dear, because the continuity of life is all we have, and in this small way we can keep our departed friends uppermost in our hearts.

If we can do this for one night, maybe we can begin to make it part of what we are, as it once was, before we lost our way.





* This post first appeared on the 1st November 2010.  I have nothing to add to it.

Limerick popular culture Tradition

That’s Limerick City (On Parade)

St Patrick’s day as a brand in Ireland is often seen as re-imported such is the prominence of re-broadcast Irish news items featuring American presidents, cities with green rivers and a running joke in the Simpsons. This year RTE ran a glowing piece showing the Sydney Opera house matched with a financial building in Abu Dhabi joined together  by St Pat and strong green lighting.

Dramatic foreign picturesque events should not be looked at as an Irish performance benchmark for March 17 as we have come to terms with the fact of having no ownership of this brand abroad.  It’s common knowledge that Obama’s casual vist to an Irish bar this year in Washington spoke to the Irish vote for America rather than any meaningful gesture to our sainted isle. The meaning of the day is now whatever you want it to be.  And so it should.  Let everyone now fashion a paton saint to serve both corporate interests and the craic of a day off.

In Limerick the day manifested by the parade is a celebration of people and the city.  Previously, in various counties I usually spent this day working either as a parade participant or as a photographer (contributing to ‘The Brand’) but this year I spent it as a member of the public and watched the city pass by outside the Hunt Museum.

What was immediately evident in the excited atmosphere was the amount of collaboration between crowd and participants.   It was easy here for anyone local or otherwise to get caught up in the support and reasoning of this parade as it peopled itself through the city. Between the cheers and shouts of recognition there was plenty of detailed commentary from friends and relatives filling in on the Friends of the Elderly walk-past, bands, and various school and sports groups.

Confusingly, youngsters behind the barriers screamed for attention at random flag carriers and other facepainted adults who came over for brief chats before carrying on. I realised that those in the parade were teachers or assistants and their fans were those who were previous participants or knew them from weekend workshops. March 17 always showcases the creative community work that has been ongoing for months but the interaction through the barricades registered just how much off it there is in Limerick. The gangs of cardboard covered children in the Limerick Printmakers and also Northside Learning Hub LSAD assisted group stood out in this celebratory context.

The public spirit of Limerick remains its diversity and pride in an understated public identity and the rhythm of the parade reflected this.  A chanting group from a primary school would be bookended by a fire engine and the Limerick Filipino community, who showcased a beauty pageant on a truck with a raucous rock n roll band. This band were fully aware of their situation and rose to the occasion by gleefully belting out ‘you may be wrong,  I may be crazy’ by Billy Joel.  I realised that the presentations that conventionally did not make sense spoke the loudest in representing the city.  Most enjoyable was the speculation on possible meanings in clusters and groupings. For example, why were a troop of scouts armed with attitude and water pistols and what was with the unexpected and heartening cheer that greeted the inter-faith groups walk-by?

There is a traditional local business aspect in parading wares and trades on this day.  An Irish cliché has many a small town shivering on the sidelines waving flags as the local car dealership makes its annual drive by. However it is often in this self-designed world that the richness of the local vernacular is glimpsed often just once a year and intentions and self initiated creativity triumph over formal artistic approaches.  Illustrating this I very much enjoyed the surrealism and fun contained in a parade float from Crecora, County Limerick.

Stone Age brick and stone supplies may have simply designed their contribution as a showcase of their sculpted wares but in treating the flatbed as a theatre set they ended up presenting much more.  A Victorian nymph kneels in a job lot of sand to face a galloping stone horse and foal. Riding the horse is a live redheaded horseman in a Limerick jersey with a tricolour for a saddle. He ignores a duck at the horse’s feet and also a backwards-facing stag. The feeling is mutual.  So preoccupied is the stag that it pays no attention to the Munster rugby flag tied to its antlers. Perhaps it is because there is a small green hat covering its eyes. Quietly at the back, a smaller nymph seems to be dreaming all this at once.

Any creative situation involving a horse is currently very ’Limerick City’ and as the tableau from Stone Age Brick and Stone passed the Hunt I imagined that somewhere in its building the gilded horse from the Horse Outside community art project nodded its head in approval.  In celebrating a Limerick confident with its unique self reflection, and creativity may I suggest that It is only a matter of time before the Rubberbandits are asked to lead the parade.


Favourites Society Tradition

The Tragedy of False Confidence — Allowing Ourselves To Be Wrong

Confidence is a great attribute in a person and in a nation.  It makes people and nations stronger because it allows them to accept their own fallibility, and drives them to develop plans taking account of the possibility that they might be wrong.  In confident countries, there’s no shame in being wrong.  Error is a sign of original thinking and mistakes are proof that people are trying out new ideas that might turn out to work or might not.  In successful societies, risk-taking is encouraged because that’s what leads to advances, and when things go wrong, nobody is blamed.  That’s the chance you take when you push the boat out.

That’s what a mature society is all about.

Years ago, I was fortunate enough to spend several weeks in Scandinavia on work-related matters.  Every day involved presentations by local officials or business people who, in the main, spoke far better English than the group of which I was a part, and I learned many useful lessons from these talks.  Being human, I retain very little of the precise details now, at so many years’ remove, apart from one thing.  A single word.

I went the whole way to Denmark and Sweden to come back with one single word, and yet, despite what you might think, this word made the whole trip worthwhile.

The word was “possibility”.

Everywhere we went, people were talking about possibilities, and it was always in the context of acknowledging that they might be wrong.  I was amazed with the contrast between us and these Scandinavians who lived in small countries just like our own.  Our crowd made a plan and stuck to it no matter what, but the reasonable Scandinavians had a completely different approach, grounded in the acceptance that people are people and might easily be wrong.  Over and over again, I heard the same thing as they explained what they did: —

We design it in such a way that if it does not work out, we have the possibility to do this instead.  And if this also does not work, we have the posssibility to do this.

Possibility.  Constantly, the word possibility.  It came to embody the concept of confidence and  I began to realise that these people were not hung up on their own importance.  They felt comfortable admitting that they might turn out to be wrong, unlike us, and their humility was the ultimate statement of self-confidence.  It stood in severe contrast to the society I came from.

We Irish are not a confident people.  We make a good effort at pretending to be so, but it never quite comes off, although up to a point, we’re able to put on a facade.  When times are good, we can be brash.  Put us in a uniform or give us a position of power and we can become arrogant bullies.  Give us some sort of celebrity status and we can be the worst poseurs the world has ever seen.   Give us a bit of success and we can lecture the world — just look at Bono if you don’t believe me.  But we just don’t seem to possess the quiet confidence of other nations.

Instead, we seem to admire the vulgar, the flashy and the loud.  Why are we so impressed by people who happened to make a little money from their businesses?  Ireland, after all, is a country where the  Sunday newspaper society pages are filled with photos of the leathery old wives of cardboard-box makers who caught their accents off a sun-bed.

I don’t understand why this is, but it offers a clue to our current economic difficulties.  We lack assertiveness and a sense of belief because at heart we don’t yet believe in ourselves as a nation.  In September 2008, a somewhat lumpen Irish prime minister, Brian Cowen, caved in to the demands of the banking elite during a midnight meeting.  Cowen assented to the unprecedented guarantee that led directly to the current economic disaster and he did so almost on his own, committing the Irish state to enormous costs, staggering sums, without calling a cabinet meeting, because he believed the empty threats of the bank bosses.  It’s not entirely clear that he had the constitutional right to make these decisions in the absence of his cabinet, but certainly, in years to come,  Cowen’s capitulation to the financial elite will be seen as the most flaccid response in history to political lobbying, with an entire nation becoming hostage to the wishes of four or five private companies.

Cowen’s collapse could easily be read as assent to a  coup d’etat, with the support of a finance minister obsessed by his own place in history.

Contrast that with Iceland’s refusal to fund the losses of their privately-owned banks.  Look at the quiet confidence with which Icelandic people came out on the streets in peaceful solidarity and look at the current situation, where Iceland is on the path to economic recovery while its former prime minister is facing prosecution.

We Irish don’t do assertiveness on that scale.  We don’t have that sort of quiet, incandescent Icelandic fury, as we’ve demonstrated by our acceptance of recent outrages, and this in itself is a measure of our confidence.  A society that tolerates as much corporate malfeasance as we did has no self-confidence.

Advertising can be a useful barometer of society, of its hopes and aspirations, of what it thinks it is, of where it hopes to go, and if you asked me to choose one particular ad that summed up the pretentious nonsense that defined the Celtic Tiger era, it would have to be the one on radio where the guy comes home and says Mmmmm.  Ciabatta!

I don’t know what the ad was for.  All I remember is thinking how cringe-inducing it was in a country where most people grew up on bread in all its shapes and forms.  Why did an advertiser think that one particular kind of bread was worth mentioning just because it had an Italian name?  The message it sent to me was simple enough.  This ad had been conceived by some character in an agency who was unconsciously betraying his own insecurity through the words of the actors.

Mmmmm.  Ciabatta.  Foreign is good.

We are not a self-assured people and, as with all such societies, we substitute braggadocio for confidence.  We want to be somebody else.  Our radio presenters speak with American accents.  Our children talk like Yogi Bear.  Most of us no longer use our own language, though we blame others for that abandonment.

Isn’t it about time that we started to adopt new, successful strategies for moving forward?

We need to start instilling critical thinking in our society, self-confidence and assertiveness.   Most of all, we need to introduce the great strength and flexibility of accepting our own falliblity.

This is the new movement in modern business thinking, the idea and revelation that people are people, fallible, unpredictable and prone to all manner of mistakes.  Future successful business will be built on this principle, but more importantly, if Ireland is to pull itself back from the precipice, this is the same principle we must apply to government and to public administration.  Ireland must reinvent itself, and so must the public service in a way that values original thinking, because by its very nature, original thinking relies on error to be successful.

That’s not the model we worked  on for generations.   Instead, we preferred to pretend that nothing could go wrong despite the evidence in front of our eyes, but we no longer have that luxury after September 2008.  Nevertheless, let’s not despair.  The collapse might have been calamitous but catharsis carries its own benefits, and therefore, even though the economic collapse has brought all sorts of hardship, it might also offer the opportunity to rethink the way we do things.  This is a chance to become strong by embracing our ability to be wrong.



All BTR posts on Reinventing Ireland

Religion Tradition

Pancake Day

As everyone knows, this is the day Saint Pancake was born to humble parents in Glasgow.  His father was a part-time boilermaker while his mother earned an honest living as a seamstress and  they doted on their only son, Shuggy.

Young Shuggy’s first miracle occurred after a prolonged family celebration.  Awfuckmaheid’sburstin! exclaimed his father, indicating severe cranial discomfort.  Unlike many youths of his age, young Shuggy immediately set about relieving his aged parent of his agony.  Quickly assembling a makeshift batter from eggs, flour and milk, he fashioned a small thin cake which he served to his progenitor with a light smile of concern.

Hereyagofaither, he offered. Gettitdoonya.

Deid on, replied his faather. Yerragreatweewean.  Atsafuckinmeeracle. Maheid’sareetthenoo.

And so it came to pass that young Shuggy’s miracle cure raised many dead men in Glasgow until eventually he came to the attention of Archbishop Hegarty, who took him under his wing.

Does this hurt, young man? Archbishop Hegarty would enquire, to which young Shuggy would always reply with a cheery smile, Nae-borra  faither!!

And so it came to pass that young Shuggy’s cure became known far and wide throughout the land until one day he felt moved to bring the truth to foreign lands.  Won’t you stay here with me forever? implored Archbishop Hegarty but Shuggy was unmoved.

Geesafuckingbreakman, he announced. AhmawataeDublinfaethecrack.

And so it was that he sailed to the neighbouring island, where he met another young man called Patricius, a lad of Roman extraction, also destined to become a saint.

See you, Jimmy, demanded Shug. You’re some kinda wop like Paulo fuckin Nutini, right?

Something like that, bach, agreed Patricius.  I came here for the rugby five years ago and never went back to Wales.  Spent my time  sticking a spear in people’s feet and they seem to like it.

Kinky punters, observed Shuggy.  I wonder if ma pan-fried meeracle cure wid work fae pierced feet?

He soon found out and so the fame of Patricius and Shuggy spread across Hibernia.  Patricius impaled insteps while Shuggy eased the pain with his beautifully-flipped crepes.  The tragedy of this story is the dreadful falling out between the two young proto-saints when eventually their faiths diverged and Shuggy fell into heresy, offering deep-fried chocolate bars to penitents instead of his traditional pan-fried cure.

Every schoolchild knows the story of how their battle raged night and day for seven weeks until eventually Saint Patrick killed Saint Pancake.

In his grief, Saint Patrick swore for ever more to eat nothing but shamrock and snake-spleens, even though the devil tempted him every night with tasty maple-syrup crepes and light pancakes drizzled with Grand Marniere.

This is known to generations of Irish people as Saint Patrick’s Passion, but that’s for another day and another story.  Sadly, the people of Glasgow have never shown due recognition to their light and tasty saint, preferring to venerate Saint Mars the Deep-Fried.


Knuckle — Documentary on Fist-fighting Between Traveller Families

I watched the film Knuckle with increasing astonishment last night as traveller men pounded the daylights out of each other for no obvious reason except some vague animosity between different families, or bad blood, as some of the participants described it.  That struck me as an odd way to put it since most of the men fighting were close relatives due to the traveller tradition of first cousins marrying each other.

Film-maker Ian Palmer followed the feud for 12 years, from his first job filming a wedding until the final fight when the travellers decided he couldn’t be trusted to film a grudge contest.  In the course of that work, Palmer captured a world that most of us never see, a world of simple certainties where a slight is a slight, and an entire family can hate another for no obvious reason apart from harsh words exchanged between two men decades ago.

As I continued to watch, all I could think of was the behaviour of pre-school toddlers projected onto what seemed to be grown men.  Petulance, aggression, immaturity and the inability to resolve differences as adults seemed to be the overriding characteristics of the people involved.

The three-cornered feud between the Quinn-McDonaghs, the Joyces and the Nevins descends at times into farce as the ludicrous Joe Joyce  postures and preens, jumping around like a demented overweight leprechaun, threatening all manner of destruction on his enemies.  I couldn’t avoid the thought that perhaps it was this sort of behaviour that created the Hollywood stereotypes of the Irish, and maybe even the racist Punch cartoons of the 19th century.  After all, if people think Big Joe Joyce and his like are typical of the Irish, who could blame them for supposing that we’re all unstable buffoons ready to tear off our shirts at the slightest offence?

James Quinn-McDonagh, by contrast, came across as a quiet, intelligent, reflective man, a reluctant participant in the violence, and yet he too was willing to take part in the fighting, while at the same time proving himself a far superior fighter to the clumsy oaf issuing threats against him on Youtube.  As the film progressed, James, who bears a disturbing resemblance to Robert Duvall, quietly took part in one bout after another, calmly dispatching his opponents with a clinical display of bareknuckle boxing, while at the same time collecting purses in the tens of thousands for each fight.

Even after his retirement, James acted as coach, but when the final fight ended in a draw, he seemed relieved.  Maybe this will sort out a lot, he muttered, but it seemed like a misplaced hope as one traveller after another pledged unending hatred towards their first cousins in the other clan.  The women knew it.  In a revealing cameo towards the end, they spoke about the stupidity of the row, pointing out that all of the families are intermarried and closely related.

The feud spans not only families, but countries.  Large numbers of both clans live in Britain and continue the war there, for reasons they don’t understand themselves. Even the little children on camera spoke of their hatred for an enemy they’ve never met and know nothing about.

What on earth were we looking at?  I couldn’t figure it out.  The sort of behaviour depicted in Knuckle wouldn’t be out of place among a bunch of three-year-olds, if you ignore the huge wads of cash, but these were grown men prancing around and shouting stupid threats at each other.

This wasn’t evidence so much of a tradition as a disorder.




Come Out Now and Fight Me, Ya Junkie’s Bastard!

This is the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages.  Watch them all



And here’s a few more


Put a Candle in the Window Tonight

Candles are the most evocative things in the world, the closest thing to life in the sphere of the inanimate.

When I was a child, the old people used to light a candle on the eve of All Souls, in remembrance of those who had gone before, and I’d like to try and revive that tradition. It doesn’t have to be religious. The tradition is ancient, long pre-dating Christianity, and it’s something we need to bring back, because we are a people who have forgotten our dead.

If we are to heal our society, we must recover our lost traditions, and regain a respect for things that are not simply material.

That’s why, tonight, I’m putting a candle in the window.

It isn’t for the dead. It’s for me, for those who pass my door, and for those I hold dear, because the continuity of life is all we have, and in this small way we can keep our departed friends uppermost in our hearts.

If we can do this for one night, maybe we can begin to make it part of what we are, as it once was, before we lost our way.



* This post first appeared on the 1st November last year.  I have nothing to add to it.

History Tradition

The Eve of St Patrick

Tonight it is when ghouls and goblins joust in the crepuscular half-light as the numina of land and air dance their ageless intertwining.   Tonight it is when the leipreachán and the bean-sídhe take their true forms, when the cú-sidhe and the cait-sidhe chase each other from dún to lios to rath and when the ancient heroes of our dawn bestir themselves, shake their mantles, heft their broadswords and wonder if their time is come at last.

Tomorrow, we celebrate the mighty battle in which Saint Patrick slew Saint Pancake so that overweight children the length and breadth of Éireann could march in the freezing cold, and so that aspiring young models could paint themselves orange and sit on top of a moving car holding a bunch of balloons.

Saint Patrick, as he waved his mighty weapon, bellowed God Bless America!

Legend tells that Saint Pancake replied with a roar: Shake hands with your uncle Dan.

For four long years, the two heroes fought, from the mountains of Mourne to the Vale of Avoca and from the Banks of my own lovely Lee to the Homes of Donegal.  They battled from the stone outside Dan Murphy’s door to the Garden Where the Praties Grow.

When at length the warriors grew weary, they watched for a while as the sun went down on Galway Bay before taking up arms again and having at it.

The battle was so fierce that the very sea itself recoiled in fear and the clouds fled from the sky.

Here’s a health to you, Father O’Flynn!! shouted Saint Pancake.

I’ll take you home again Kathleen, responded Saint Patrick.

Three long weeks I spent up in Dublin, said Saint Pancake.

Three long weeks to learn nothing at all, replied Saint Patrick with a sneer.  Down a boreen green came a sweet colleen.

And with that, he plunged his sword into Saint Pancake’s heart.

They say that Saint Pancake’s dying words were I like to ramble down the old boreen, but some say this is only a legend and that his last words were When Irish eyes are smiling, sure, ’tis like the morn in Spring.

Either way, one thing is certain.   That was the day when Saint Patrick won freedom for very old Americans to walk down the middle of Irish streets waving at the natives.  On that day, alarm companies the world over won the right to drive their trucks in convoy, very slowly, for people to look at.

A great day for Ireland.