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Thursday, March 15, 2018


Limericks from Limerick; blarney from Killarney; leprechauns, pots of gold, shamrocks, and shillelaghs.

Watch out! Wear green on St. Patrick’s Day or get pinched!

On St. Patrick’s Day there is a bit of Irish in all of us. If Irish can eat lutefisk at Norsk Hostfest, why, surely Norwegians can eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day.

Celebrations? My, how the Irish celebrate. Any excuse for a party. Corned beef and cabbage. Green beer and Irish coffee. Bagpipes and the Chieftains. What more could you ask for?

In early days this feast commemorated Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick. Born in Britain a Romanized Christian, Patrick was carried off by marauders at the age of 16 and sold to a local Irish chieftain. Patrick drew heavily upon his Christian faith during captivity. He escaped and returned to Britain after six years. Thereafter, Patrick returned to Ireland in 432 AD, this time as a missionary of Pope Celestine I. He founded his first church at Armagh. Before his death Christianity was firmly established in Ireland.

Today Irish descendants around the world celebrate March 17 for reasons other than to honor St. Patrick. Irish pride is one of those reasons.

It is an understatement to say the Irish people suffered deprivation and degradation repeatedly through the centuries. Ordeals occurred at the hands of various invaders. The Celts migrated to the Isle in the 5th century BC. Vikings raided the Irish coasts during the 9th and 10th centuries. Dublin, in fact, was originally founded by the Vikings in 831 AD. Norman invaders conquered Ireland in the 12th century.

The dispossession of Ireland and her people began in earnest with the colonization by England. In 1168 the English invaded Ireland. From that time onward the English made a concerted effort to erase Irish culture. Irish lands were systematically removed from Irish ownership. Wealth, power, and social influence were reserved for English Protestants. The Irish were forbidden to bear arms, receive education, or speak Gaelic.

During the great potato famine of the 1800s more than two million Irish starved to death and several million more were force to emigrate. This to the shame of England. With little more than the clothes on their back the Irish fled to North America and Australia. Irish were known by ethnic slurs such as “micks,” “dirty Irish” and “shanty Irish.”

Meanwhile, English landlords confiscated Irish farms. Forced into poverty by the English, many Irish committed petty crimes of theft just to survive. Punishment for men and women meant transport to Australia to serve prison terms. One Australian convict, Thomas Meagher, escaped to the United States. Later he served in the Civil War as a Union general officer and was eventually elected governor of Montana.

It is human nature for people to think stereotypically. Few groups have suffered the stigma of prejudice and negative stereotypes more than the Irish. They and their descendants have taken more than their share of abuse. Stereotypes portray the Irish people as dirty, drunken, brawling, ignorant, illiterate, rowdy, belligerent, boisterous, and uncouth. Other stereotypes render the Irish as childlike leprechauns. Even so, the Irish spirit has never broken. The Irish overcame their discrimination without the benefit of equal opportunity legislation.

The Irish are not so thin skinned that their good nature and sense of humor is diminished. They’ve taken a ribbing about their ethnicity and come up smiling.

To their credit, the Irish sustained their pride over the years. Today throughout Ireland a sense of dignity and self-respect fostered one of the finest economic success stories in twentieth century Europe. If they can buck the odds, other ethnic groups can, too.

More than anything, pride and perseverance against odds is celebrated by those of Irish descent. What better occasion for merrymaking than the feast day of St. Patrick?

So, it’s down the hatch with the corned beef and cabbage and up with a glass to the Irish. And a bit ‘o the Clancy Brothers will do, thank’ee.

“When Irish hearts are happy,

“All the world seems bright and gay;

“And when Irish eyes are smiling,

“Sure they steal your heart away.”


Dennis M. Patrick can be contacted at (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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