Chicago Dyes Its River Green For St Paddy's Day
St Patrick’s Day.
I love it. The whole schtick. I’m sorry, I just can’t help it.
Being Irish on St Patrick’s day is the best thing in the world; it’s like a Leprechaun hanging up a drunk Santa and then beating him like a piñata until all the presents fall out. It’s that tipsy-topsy-turvy day when the world seems full of vicarious Paddies.
The parade, the pipe bands, the wearing of the green, the sinking of the black. From Buenos Aires Hurling Club to the Irish steak house in Vladivostok, on corners of faraway foreign streets stand taverns that are forever Ireland.
Does this annual outbreak of soggy patriotism come from a hooky sentimental ‘far-from-hearth-and-home’ cawboguery? Some of it, sure and what’s wrong with that? If the Irish at home are embarrassed by the excesses of emigrant and diasporic Paddywhackery, I’m sure – as the money from the next generation of leavers starts to roll in again – they’ll find it in their hearts to indulge us in this one day of exuberance.
Of course, there will always be cynics out there who don’t buy in to the Irish project. Recruiters like the gentleman from Australia who sparked a minor diplomatic incident after posting a request for bricklayers with an old school NINA (No Irish Need Apply) proviso; it could have been a story from the 19th century except for the fact that notice board used by the recruiter was the online market Gumtree .
Or maybe the boo-boys come in the form of our London Mare (pardon me, Mayor; what with Cheltenham and Rebekah Brooks, the gee-gees have been on my mind a lot this past few days). The ‘Johnson’ we installed in City Hall (and I use the term advisedly) has been roundly condemned by the Irish community for a quote attributed to him whereby he is understood to have intimated that St Patrick’s Day celebrations in London were ‘lefty crap’.
The Irish Post wasted no time in offering the community’s assessment and they were on surer ground on this matter than they were to prove later with their coverage of the President Higgins visit.
From figures as unlikely as Hitchcock the film director or the Chartist O’Connor, the impact of Irish cultural life on Britain is immense and largely unacknowledged
Labour Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone told myself and another Irish journalist Peter Kelly that the Post’s front page was a big favourite at his HQ offices. Boris had difficulty getting the Irish vote before this particular ejaculation so it’s safe to say that since his aforementioned ethnic prognostications, it’s not a demographic he’ll be going after with any enthusiasm in the upcoming election. He did apologise to be fair to the posh buffoon but by then, the Irish had stopped listening.
Historically in any event, the Irish community has never really been very fertile ground for the Conservatives. The Irish were on the side of labour and the left and it was an Irish Fenian wrote The Red Flag and Irish labourers sided with the Jews and the Communists against Moseley’s Blackshirts in the Battle of Cable Street. What we gave to the Tories was their name; taken from the Island pirates on the Donegal coast.
So I pay no mind to the detractors, or ‘Fuck the begrudgers’ (as they say in the ‘old country’; I’m now so long gone that I can officially call it that). Let them have their sour say because this week, the Niagra Falls, the Empire State and the Leaning Tower of Pisa are all lit-up green; from Obama and Ali to Guevara and De Niro, the Irish are everywhere.
When I found out Zorro was purportedly inspired by an Irish Mexican rebel, it only cemented my deep rooted conviction that absolutely everyone is Irish, they either just don’t know it yet (or they are in denial about it). The Irish Mexican connection doesn’t begin and end with Anthony Quinn and the Northerner’s nickname for the ‘Free State’ south of the border.
But if I’m honest, I’m also guilty of a bit of chauvinistic needling. I must confess to sometimes taking more pleasure than is modest from informing English people that the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons was an imprisoned member of Sinn Féin or that Amnesty International’s co-founder had been chief of staff in the IRA or even that a Fenian designed the submarine and a Mayo man invented the torpedo.
From figures as unlikely as Hitchcock the film director or the Chartist O’Connor, the impact of Irish cultural life on Britain is immense and largely unacknowledged. And let’s not forget Irish soldiering. Wellington, Kitchener and Montgomery all had Irish heritage (even if they weren’t given to advertising it).
Irishness is not the social stigma you thought it was. In fact, it’s practically a prerequisite of establishment power: after all, your very posh Chancellor is an Irish Baronet and your old Etonian Premier is descended from a Waterford strumpet.
In Ireland, the relationship with England casts a long historical shadow and because of this, it always amazes us how little people in Britain seem to understand of their closest neighbouring nation. Maybe (and I’m guessing this would annoy Boris) we should be agitating for a recognised Irish History Month here in London; to follow the example of the Irish community in Leeds or our Black brothers and sisters who celebrate Black history in October and the Gypsy Roma Traveller community in June.
We Irish are perennially aware the effects of Norman and then English intervention on our culture but make no mistake, that traffic went two ways and consequently, one rarely has to dig too deep to find some Irish connection whether by commerce, marriage or soldiery; Irishness is never too far away in Britain, even if sometimes its invisibility is a product of our near ubiquity.
And that ubiquity goes from the bottom to the very top. This country’s current Chancellor of the Exchequer for example is heir to the Irish Baronetcy of Ballentaylor in County Tipperary. And recently, the veracity of this Hibernium Ubique premise was keenly underlined when a friend drew my attention to the lineage of the British Prime Minister David Cameron whose ancestry boasts an Irish actress and courtesan in the form of William IV’s mistress Dorothea Jordan.
So Britain, rejoice and embrace your inner Leprechaun. Don’t be ashamed to admit that your nanna ran away with a navvy or that your Granddad fell for an Irish serving girl. Irishness is not the social stigma you thought it was. In fact, it’s practically a prerequisite of establishment power: after all, your very posh Chancellor is an Irish Baronet and your old Etonian Premier is descended from a Waterford strumpet.
Indulge your inner Irishman and read these
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