Would the real St Patrick please stand up

At one time, the only thing to mark St Patricks Day in our parish was going to Mass, and a day off school. The first time I encountered green beer was about 25 years ago in a town centre pub in Portadown of all places. David Vance welcomes the prospective all new inclusive St Patrick’s Day celebrations planned for Belfast. But, he asks, who will be remembering the man himself?

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • CS Parnell

    He can’t stand up. Like most people who take his day “seriously” he can barely stagger as far as the gutter to boak in.

  • Mick,

    “David Vance welcomes the prospective all new inclusive St Patrick’s Day celebrations..”?

    Really?.. from the linked post – “I’m sure it’ll pack ’em in but don’t expect me to welcome it.”

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, he sort of does.

  • Nathan

    St Patricks Day was never just a low-key religious event in the Irish Republic, it was a political event as well.

    Heads of government (e.g John A Costello, Eamon deValera) as well as government ministers (e.g. Sean MacEntee and James Ryan) used the event as the perfect opportunity to denounce partition.

    St Patricks Day started to improve, however, from the the 1960s onwards when Lemass (under the direction of Dr Ken Whittiker) used the customary annual speech to talk about cross-border co-operation instead.

    Today, there is much more of a good feeling to the day. For those who are religious (Mr Vance et al), they can confine themselves within the church of their choice for the day – I might even be joining them this year seeing that I will be in Galway for Paddy’s Day, I haven’t been to a Cathedral service in years.

    What religionists cannot do, however, is take over the parades in places like Dublin; Tourism Ireland has assumed overall control, and they’re here to stay!!

  • Nationalist

    Some years ago now I watched Nelson McCausland in front of the cameras with a smirk on his face telling everyone about the many thousands of Unionists who speak the Bruns lingo, and he was laughing to himself in that I’m sure he knew he was going to get money to promote the farce simply to level the field.

    Nelson McCausland was again at it the other day announcing that “Conditions” or “Guidelines” have been put forward to remove the Irishness from the St. Patricks Day event. Clearly the DUP see this as a way to get even more ratepayers money for events around the Twelth of July that could be handed out to the Unionist paramilitary killers in the Westland and other areas!

  • esmereldavillalobos

    I must admit it will be much more pleasant spending my second St Pat’s day “over the water” (despite the lack of a day off) where all the ex-pats (excuse pun) can have a pint and a yarn and forget about the tribalism, symbolism etc. and celebrate our Irish/British/Ulsterness without fear of reproach. The English seem to get on board for a party just as much now which is nice to see. OK, so no religious message – big deal! A semi-mythical priest with an aversion to all things reptilian does not appear to be a hugely important role model for Christianity.

    Just to pull DV on one point: since when did secularism in Belfast become a bad thing? Shome mishtake shurely?

  • Having lived in England for quite a few years now I find it highly ironic that St. Pat’s Day has now become a bigger event than St. George’s Day. The length and breadth of London on March 17 you’ll find pubs, (Irish or otherwise) decorated with cardboard shamrocks and similarly tacky paraphernalia packed to the rafters with punters (Irish or otherwise)in leprecaun hats (the products of manys a promotional campaign by Guinness and any other brewers who wish to make money by jumping on the bandwagon) partaking in yet another excuse for a piss-up. St George’s Day is a considerably low-key affair compared to this.

  • Nathan

    Northern Sole,

    I relocated to Britain after a particular milestone in my life, so I can relate very much to what your saying.

    I tend to avoid the St Patricks Day celebrations, for exactly the same reasons you’ve outlined above – not my cup of tea. I much prefer the Bloomsday celebrations instead.

  • esmereldavillalobos

    I think that the problem the English have with celebrating their Englishness is threefold. Patriotic Englishness has to an extent been hijacked by the extreme right wing and middle England feels uncomfortable wrapping itself in the flag of St George and parading.

    The English find themselves without a strong sense of independant identity within the UK and many consider themselves British before they would think of their English roots. A similar phenomenon manifests itself in NI but with a strong sense of provincialism, for want of a better term (on one extreme a person may just be Irish, on the other British but still Northern Irish).

    Finally, with England the secular multicultural melting pot that it is, what does it mean to be English anymore? Paxman certainly had some interesting theories on this in his recent tome but I can’t answer the question myself.

    Yeah, so St Patrick’s day has been commercialised over here and yes it is tacky – you will not see me in O’Neill’s drinking green stout or wearing a funny hat or pining for Molly Malone! Let them join in and celebrate (or just get pissed) with their near neighbours – it’s got to be better than what’s gone before.

  • irishman

    I can categoricaly state that, guidelines or no guidelines, the DUP will not prevent people from wearing green shamrocks and/or clothes expressing an Irish identity. The fact that it has even been proposed is most laughable and, more seriously, yet another indication of the absolute refusal of unionist politicians to countenance anything resembling an acceptance of a nationalist identity.

    I’m still waiting, by the way, for the same unionists to put similar guidelines on the 11th night bonfires which will be paid for by Belfast Council……..what chance guidlines determining no Rangers attire, union jacks and/or orange regalia at these cultural outings?

  • idunnomeself


    If that happens then there’ll be no funding for years to come. The onus is on the parade organisers themselves to remove these symbols to secure funding in the future.

    I don’t envy them their task, but they’ve been saying for years now that they want to make it open for everyone and now they have a chance

  • Cynic

    St Patrick’s day is a greater ‘cultural’ event than St George’s day in England because of one thing – The stereotyping of the Irish as being drunks. This suits the bar trade as it lifts their business at an otherwise quiet time of year. It’s unfortunate but true.

    I can’t see the prod politicos letting their hair down for St Patrick, but their voters…?

  • irishman


    Precisely my point. There is NO such onus on organisers of loyalist bonfires as a precondition for council funding. Indeed, it took the loyalists to poke fun at suicide victims for there even to be a whimper from Alliance over their support for this one- no such objection to the wearing of attire deemed sectarian, or singing of sectarian songs, never mind burning of effigies.

    BTW What’s wrong with a green shamrock? One hopes no tourists arrive in Belfast for St. Patrick’s Day. I can just imagine wee Nelson demanding the security guards at this spectacle confiscate the leprechaun hats from the bemused japanese tourists…….

  • DK

    There was an interesting article in the Observer on Sunday that the proposed shamrock for the Belfast event is to be rainbow coloured. Apparently the local gay groups are delighted and are intending to get involved with their own float in the parade. (for those unaware, the rainbow flag is the international gay pride symbol)