It is a day for us all….or as a Devils Advocate might put it …is it really a day for us all? Can it be a day for us all when it seems to be different things to different people? Or even more than one thing to some people.
I am pretty certain that the first St Patricks Day I actually remember was Patrician Year…1961. I would have been almost nine years old and I proudly wore the red enamel lapel badge “St Patrick 461-1961”. As others have observed on other threads it was SAINT Patricks Day. A day off school, a Holy Day of Obligation and Mass finished off with a rousing chorus of “Hail Glorious Saint Patrick”. There was no “drowning the shamrock” in our alcohol-free home and my parents disapproved of neighbours who did take a wee drink.
Of course as the 1970s dawned, I became aware that in the United States…particuarly in New York City, it was all very different. Green beer and all that. A celebration of Irish-American integration into the great American cities. The first parades pre-date American Indpendence. They pre-date mass Irish migration to Norh America. They pre-date the acceptance of the Irish in polite American Society.
And in the territory of Gangs of New York, St Patricks Day became not just a Christian celebration but an in your face display of Irishness by migrants in big American cities. The men who built America and the women who tamed them. And in the late eighteenth century, Irish-America made it all republican in the Fenian sense of the word, more nationalistic, more sentimental and tearfully whimsical….and green beer. Christian, Irish and Oirish.
Not that Norn Iron did not make St Patricks Day in its own image. On BBC Norn Iron in the 1960s, Larry McCoubrey would introduce an item where the Queen Mum….Gawd bless her but it was always the Queen Mum …presented shamrock to the “Irish Guards” and the Governor of Norn Iron…Wakehurst or Grey would be doing the same to some lesser regiment in Ballymena. Next item on the news agenda would be the Church of Ireland Bishop of Down lay some flowers on St Patricks Grave in Downpatrick. Pre-ecumenical times of course….well certainly when summer 1961….it seemed daring to go onto the Down Cathedral grounds and visit the Grave. Next up on news local news protocol was Cardinal Dalton or Cardinal Conway hand out shamrock to Catholic Boy Scouts. Over on UTVV, Frank Carson would open the door of The Half Door Club….”come on on in” before Peter Tomelty, the Portaferry barber sang the “Stone Outside Dan Murphys Door”. The more up-market BBC might give us thirty minutes of Brendan O’Dowda singing Percy French songs
Of course everything changed in the 1970s. The New York parade..we got to see that on the RTE News and people evcam visited NYC and came back Praising it all. Dublin imported it. The Dublin Parade has more to do with Irishness than Religion. We now buy into Religion, Irish Ethnicity, Oirishness and Irish Nationality.
Except of course in Norn Iron. In Belfast 1970s the parades along the Falls Road were mostly illegal…but I feel that’s a technicality. There were years when it was best to stay away and years when it was safe to go along. It all depended on the prevailing security situation.
Circa 1995, the first St Patricks Day Parade ’twas allowed thru the city centre. It was earnestly hoped that no Irish flags would spoil the day….Ireland’s National Day. What can I say? In the photographs I am carrying the 143rd Irish Flag on the left.
So….we move on or do we? The Queen Mum is dead but her role as hander-outer of shamrocks to the so called Irish Guards will go to ….???? Kate maybe. And the not so sought after role of dispensing to shamrock to the RIR will go to Randy Andy. The Downpatrick and Armagh events are happily ecumenical ….hooray….RELIGION is still a part in it.
A traditional display of OIRISHNESS will be on display in the Holyland streets around Queens University.
And a display of ethnic Irishness will be allowed in Custom House Square in Belfast. A free concert even but the “lord” Mayor Gavin Robinson has taken time out of his busy schedule of protesting his British identity and complaining about the removal of his national flag to tell us Irish citizens that we cannot bring Irish flags to celebrate our National Day. ETHNIC IRISHNESS is permitted in Belfast…but if you want to see Ireland portrayed as a nation, you should really go to ….Dublin….or New York, or Sydney,or Toronto, or Tokyo or London or Buenos Aires…..or out of Norn Iron.
Thats the problem with Conflict Resolution. It LIMITS our horizons in the name of INCLUSIVITY. And paradoxically …based in LetsGetAlongerism and liberal unionism, it puts more value on Britishness. Oddly in Conflict Resolution there is no parity of esteem.
St Patricks DAY is an occasion to celebrate a Christian saint, a day to celebrate stage Oirishness but it is also a day to celebrate being an ethnic Irish person….AND it is a day developed in a time when merely being Irish was to be ridiculed and marginalised. We survived and our ultimate triumph was to be establish our own nation. I want to celebrate that without the permission of Conflict Resolutionists.
It is wrong to suggest that the National Flag of Ireland has no place in a St Patricks Day Parade. Clearly it does. It is Irelands National Day. The only people who could possibly disagree are those that would have us reduced to A Province Once Again.
Can American Independence be commemorated without the American Flag? Actually it was….from 1863 to 1943 it was not flown on 4th July in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Ah but doesnt St Patrick pre-date Irelands National Flag? Why yes it does….but American Independence has little to do with fifty stars on the American Flag. Yet some of our finest Conflict Resolutionists will be sipping wine at the American Consulate in July. Is Independence Day “inclusive”? Lets ask the Sioux, Apaches and Commanches….not to mention the Latinos in California and Texas.
Of course a few days later the same Conflict Resolutionists will be at the French Consulate celebrating Bastille Day and commemorating Frances National Day. But is it inclusive??? What about all those French monarchists? Are they offended? Actually …in my capacity as a Jacobite turned Jacobin….I can say that they are.
And dont start me on the Cinco de Mayo (sp) in Texas. Mexican flags abound as Texans celebrate the Mexican victory over France in 1863.
Conflict Resolution is a con-trick. Dont fall for it.