COLM TOBIN: Sorry to rain on your parades, I’m lost in a Paddy’s daze, begorrah!

March 20th, 2022 5:05 PM

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I REALLY want to like you Paddy’s Day, Patty’s Day, Lá Fhéile Pádraig, whatever it is you are calling yourself these days … but you are very hard to love.

I don’t want to come across as unpatriotic. I’m as happy as the next man to be getting a day off work to enjoy this tremendous, snake-free little island of ours.

But this holiday doesn’t really do much for me. Tá brón orm.

I don’t remember St Patrick’s Day being a major occasion growing up. We didn’t really do parades as far as I can recall.

There were certainly no novelty leprechaun hats, fake beards and inflatable hammers. We went to mass and you got to pin some parsley on the lapel of your jacket and then you went home.

And there’d usually be a woeful flick featuring leprechauns on the telly.

I don’t look forward to today with the relish I do Hallowe’en, for instance, which feels like an authentic, spooky Irish affair with deep links in the psyche and the culture. Who can resist the idea of the normal world opening up to the spirit world for one night only?

Even if our strange traditions involving turnip lanterns have been upended somewhat by Scream masks and ‘candy’, it just has a feeling of authenticity.

Paddy’s Day is more about opening up different types of spirits, unfortunately. And it has become synonymous with a certain kind of binge drinking, crossed with the unbridled dying of rivers and the green-washing of monuments across the globe. You simply can’t move for ‘craic’.

I find the parades to be a bit flat, to be honest. Definitely the one in Dublin, with its strange mix of obscure marching bands, disenchanted jugglers and Des Cahill in an open-top car.

It’s the kind of forced bonhomie you need to put on when you have a load of cousins home for the holidays, the holiday equivalent of Nationwide.

Am I being a bit of a Darby O’Humbug? I am. Tá brón orm.

Maybe I need to step back and consider a kinder approach? It has always felt to me more like a holiday for the diaspora, truth be told, and I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that.

With the terrible footage emerging this week of Ukrainians forced out of their home country, it’s worth taking a moment to consider those emigrant journeys from our island over the centuries.

Whether starved out by genocidal landlords at the height of the Famine or by our own economic illiteracy in the 1950s, these people are a profound part of our story that we have yet to fully confront.

Would it hurt me to fire on a green hat, smoke a fake pipe and play along on the spoons for the day? What’s the harm in oiling yourself up like Michael Flatley and skipping down to the local Centra if it brings a smile to the face of some wandering yank?

Am I beyond declaring ‘Top O’ De Mornin’ To Ya!’ to passersby with a big toothless head on me?

And with every politician in the country hitting the runways as they attempt to spread Irishness throughout the globe faster than Covid-19, you’ve gotta accept a wonderful marketing opportunity when it arises.

So, I’m making an effort this year to be less judgemental and celebrate the day for what it is. In these difficult times, where all the talk is of Nato, an end to neutrality and the despicable actions of a despot, I suppose being known around the world for one harmless, silly day when everyone can get together to enjoy a tipple or two isn’t exactly the worst thing, is it? And with that, Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh!

Time to name that ship

IT was with great gusto that Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney announced that two ships, purchased from the New Zealand government for €26m, will be delivered as part of our upgraded naval service next year. The two vessels will replace the LÉ Orla and LÉ Ciara, but these new boats have yet to be named. There are a few options, as I see it.

We could maintain the policy of naming our vessels of warfare after national school teachers, which is entirely appropriate. Alternatively, we could do a public vote on the names which would probably end up with our version of Boaty McBoatyface. I’m guessing maybe we’d end up with Nathan McCarterface, or some such. My vote would be to name the ships Zig & Zag and mount them with Zogabongs – their mission to spread their inimitable brand of alien Irish humour throughout the oceans.

Micheál star is on the rise

MICHEÁL Martin’s been having a good few weeks, hasn’t he? His personal approval ratings at home are on the up in recent times.

And his appearance on BBC’s Sunday Morning with Sophie Raworth last weekend isn’t likely to change that.

In response to a question about whether Ireland was going to do security checks on Ukrainians fleeing the Russian genocide, he responded ‘Our primary impulse is to assist those fleeing war.’

If the responses across social media are anything to go by, including quite a few in the UK commentariat, then the rugby players aren’t the only ones returning from London with a sense of quiet satisfaction.

And, given the state of his opposite number over there, a certain Mr Johnson … Well, it has been said that sometimes you just have to stand in the general vicinity of someone else to look like a shining beacon of leadership by comparison.


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