When did national holiday become homage to drink?

Pictured at the launch of next month's Galway Garda Blue Cycle Challenge from Galway to Croagh Patrick, at Salthill Garda Station, were Inspector Tom Waters, Supt Pat McHugh, Bridie Kinnneavy, Dr Michael Coughlan, Garda Aidan Coughlan, Galway football manager Kevin Walsh, Mary Flanagan, Eamon O'Toole, Mick Staunton, Joe Burke, Margaret Tierney and Padraic Scarry and members of Pieta House and I Can Charities. Photo: Stan Shields.
Pictured at the launch of next month's Galway Garda Blue Cycle Challenge from Galway to Croagh Patrick, at Salthill Garda Station, were Inspector Tom Waters, Supt Pat McHugh, Bridie Kinnneavy, Dr Michael Coughlan, Garda Aidan Coughlan, Galway football manager Kevin Walsh, Mary Flanagan, Eamon O'Toole, Mick Staunton, Joe Burke, Margaret Tierney and Padraic Scarry and members of Pieta House and I Can Charities. Photo: Stan Shields.

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

On one hand, we should be proud as punch that our small country’s national holiday is enjoyed so enthusiastically by at least half the planet.

But let’s not lose the run of ourselves by deluding ourselves into thinking this is down to our history, our culture or even our patron saint – it’s that we celebrate our national feast day with drink and that’s why the rest of the world wants to join in.

It’s like a student finding a house party on their way home; they don’t need to know why it’s being held – they just need to know how they can get in and blag a couple of free cans.

So too with the world; they see a group of people trying to drown themselves in green beer while wearing massive leprechaun hats and flowing red beards and they think: “I’ll have a piece of that.”

And yes we dress it up as a cultural celebration, a chance to profile our small nation across the world; we send our Government Ministers to cities we’ve hardly heard of and they get to sit on a review platform watching a succession of marching bands go by.

Not everybody enjoys St Patrick’s Day for the drink of course – but how big a day would you think it might be if, for example, we imposed the same rules as we do for Good Friday?

Would there be crowds flocking to the parades if the only place they could go afterwards was straight home?

The Irish have a global reputation for being ‘great craic’; we’re known for our stirring music and our poetry of course – but most of all we’re known for our pubs and our Guinness.

It’s a reputation that I’ve played a small part in myself, having never knowingly backed away from a nice pint in a good hostelry – but there are those among us who take it to extremes.

Our football fans, for example, head out to foreign fields and like homing pigeons, when they arrive in a new city, they make for the nearest fountain where they jump in, wave their tricolours emblazoned with messages from their local pub and sing ‘Championes, Championes’ like it was our national anthem.

And they come home with awards that tell them they are our greatest ambassadors.

Go into Central Rome or the heart of Paris at night and you’ll see hundreds, indeed thousands, of people enjoying themselves. But they’re as likely to be drinking coffee or eating ice cream as drinking beer.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.