The Colonel comes down hard today (Irishman’s Diary, 16th March) on the public drunkenness and loutishness that has become associated with St. Paddy’s day in Dublin (and elsewhere).
Hard not to agree with his disdain for public pissing, punching, and puking, but is it all a case of making mountains out of molehills? While there will (with certainty) be drunken feck-artistry on the streets tomorrow afternoon/evening/night there will also be families and couples in their thousands out watching the strange, bewildering, bricolage that is the St. Patrick’s Day parade. They will, of course, vastly outnumber the drunken idiots (nationwide) so why is there always a need to fixate on the gobshites rather than the good folk? Grumble…
I still feel Paddy’s day to be something of a 'festival' without a clear purpose or direction (some people fill the gap by just getting hammered), but that is fairly understandable when you consider both the history of the parade/day, and the recent changes in Irish society itself. As Hugh Linehan informed us in yesterday’s Irish Times:
…in the early years of independence, the Irish state saw no need for a parade, restricting itself to a celebratory Mass and a march past by the Army. After the Second World War, the day was reserved for an industrial pageant "showcasing Irish industry and agriculture".
That pageant was replaced in the 1970s by a Dublin Tourism parade, which saw as its major goal the boosting of revenue by attracting Irish-Americans and others back "home" so that they could step out on the streets of Dublin.
Since then, of course, the Celtic Tygger has left its mark on proceedings, leaving us with the curiously ahistorical, postmodern mishmash of the Dublin “St Patrick's Festival” (things have changed rather more gradually in other parts of the country). It’s still a day that just doesn’t know what it wants to be. Are we selling ourselves or clapping ourselves on the back? Are we celebrating ‘authentic’ Irish culture, or reinventing it? Are we simply, as the Col. might suggest, getting langered?
Lost in the body of today’s Diary was an admission that sent alarm bells ringing here at Cruiskeen Eile HQ. After offering casual speculations about the real origins of a mid-March festival the Colonel amazes us with the following:
Did the same axial shift which changed the shortest day to December 21st also shift the spring equinox from March 17th to the 21st? I don't know. Indeed, I am almost equally ignorant of just about everything that is now going on in Irish life.
Is this further evidence of the ‘chastened’ Myers I spoke of before? Is this a throwaway comment or an attempt, by the Colonel, to allow a touch of vulnerability to shine through? I couldn’t possibly say, but it’s a curious statement for a man who’s been ferociously commenting on ‘Irish life’ for aeons.