By Barry Lord and Shane Brothwood
It’s almost that time of year again when the inaugural drinkathon that is Paddy’s Day gets underway – so Ireland Today talked to the St Patrick lovers and haters on the streets of Dublin.
While the Americans visiting the capital will be no doubt wearing ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish’ T-shirts and dancing round in those daft, giant green leprechaun hats – some of us will certainly not be feeling the spirit of St Pat.
For every year, there’s one thing we can be sure to be sure of…the great, giant mess of drunks that somehow seem to take over the streets.
And if you want to go anywhere in the country to see this gaggle of guzzlers, there really is nowhere better than Dublin.
They come from far and away to visit the city to get well and truly LOCKED.
In Stamullen village, just 35km north of Dublin city, preparations are underway.
Tricolours hang from shops and local businesses, and the pubs are advertising a great evening’s ‘craic’ – with live music and traditional dancing.
But local man Thomas Kiely, 75, had his own colourful take on the event. It’ll be an open air lunatic asylum as usual, he said.
You see Thomas remembers a time when the celebrations were considerably more subdued compared to today’s standards – which let’s face it often end up in a gang getting drunk at home before they even hit, stumble, or fall in to the streets.
“You would see a small parade going up and down the road, much smaller by the examples you see today,” Thomas said, remembering Paddy’s days of old.
But still, Thomas will look forward to enjoying a little Irish pride tomorrow.
“The number of parades now has grown and it’s nice to see the traditions being embraced by the different generations.
And as soon as the horseracing is on, I’ll be up the road.
While for some, if the American-Irish aren’t busy lapping up our heritage, they are busy taking it over.
Elaine McDonnell, a drama teacher, feels as a nation we’ve been overshadowed by other countries often elaborate forms of honouring our patron saint.
“The Americans have often shown us up by the way they celebrate Paddy’s day,” she said.
“I hope we can top their celebrations this year.”
It’s unlikely though really isnt it? I mean how can we compete with a New York Paddy’s Day or a Boston Paddy’s parade?
For a start, maybe most people at the American parades are sober enough to remember not to make a show of themselves and leave that to the dancing leprechauns.
Hannah Egan, 20, a staff member at Whyte’s Bar & Restaurant, in Stamullen, said she will be too busy to be affected by the celebrations.
It’s just another day for me, another day in work. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a big part of our culture and if I wasn’t working, I’d be enjoying it with everyone, but work has to come first, and we’ll see, I might have a drink after work.
Ah work…what a sobering thought. Perhaps too sobering on March 17 when the rest of the country is at the pub or enjoying a take-away and a good old drink.
Fergus Mctaggart, a retired mechanic, will be a patriot tomorrow, however. St Patrick’s Day is not about the drink for Fergus, no.
“For me, it’s an opportunity to rejoice in having the good fortune to be born in the country that I love.”
Fair play Fergus – now, shall we have a drink to that?
Stamullen resident Ethna Whearity Wilde reminded us of another sobering thought – that the village has paid its own homage to the memory of St Patrick.
“Stamullen Parish Church is dedicated to St Patrick,” said Ethna.
“It’s a special day in the parish with the blessing of the graves in the cemetery on the day. Many of the local premises love Irish dancers in on the day where they have Irish music and craic.”
Well, it’s good to know there will be dancing…
But in Dublin city, many are dreading the 17th. They wear their battle scars from years gone by.
They’ve seen the taxi queues and the carnage in the streets and bars – and don’t even mention the words ‘Temple Bar’ to many city dwellers.
Louise Brandon said: That’s a hard one. Paddy’s Day is a bit of a let down sometimes to me. It’s grand ’cause there is so much on but way too many people around that cause fights and stuff.
I think the image of the drunk Irishman is a very negative one for our culture. Drinking is way too common in our society considering how unhealthy it is.
It is positive to celebrate our Irish culture with pride and to show our history. It can be a very positive thing to be proud of your national identity and encourage others to do so.
Perhaps the best way to mark the party this year is to have a nice meal with loved ones, enjoy a few glasses of wine and the craic and go home early enough to escape the rabble who chose the alcohol supper.
Here at Ireland Today, we will be working some of the day and perhaps enjoying a pint in the evening – but we will be home well before midnight, well before the party gets messy.
On that note, Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona.