Category: Ireland

March 22nd, 2005 by Michael Woods

My recollection of Saint Patrick’s Day as a boy growing up in Dublin is that, being a “holy day” and therefore one upon which all commercial and civil establishments except the public establishments (pubs) were closed, it was a brief respite from the remorseless tedium and relentless brutality of school life.

And apart from the day being like a Sunday with its grim concomitant of best behavior and attendance at Mass, the only real evidence of it being Saint Patrick’s Day (abbreviated to “Patrick’s Day” or even “Paddy’s Day” by those irreverent Irish who disdainfully wished to expunge its devotional origins) was scant: a few scraps of wilting green weed in the lapels of the patriotic and righteous, invariably “worn” alongside the Fainne (a gold ring pin signifying that the wearer is an Irish speaker although in practice probably has ‘command’ of only a few scattered phrases) and the Pioneer (sic) heart shaped badge (indicating non-consumption of alcohol).

The appearance of this formidably declarative panoply of allegiance was usually the preserve of clergymen, civil servants and the implacably upright. Cynics speculated or even noticed that, as the day wore on, the tired sprig of green sadly slipped its moorings and fell to the street to be trodden on by a crunching boot although the Fainne might remain where it was provided no one took it as an invitation to say anything more than ‘Dia Dhuit’ (which although the Gaelic equivalent of ‘Hello’ literally means ‘May God be with you’, the standard reply being ‘Dia agus Muire aghuit’: ‘May God and Our Lady be with you’). The problematic Pioneer badge, however, was sometimes discreetly hidden on the inside of the lapel as the invitation to a pint or ten of stout became something no sane man could refuse. Hypocrisy may only be worn on your sleeve. Read more of this article »

Posted in Ireland, Op-Ed

June 7th, 2004 by Elisabeth Davies

This year, on 29 March 2004, an astonishing event took place in Ireland, that sea girt isle off the North West coast of Europe. A law came into effect, which banned smoking in public places. This law has such a wide definition that it even includes your own kitchen should you employ anyone there.

But what is truly amazing is that pubs and bars are included in the legislation. Everybody knows that for centuries these have been the fulcrum and focus of social life in Ireland. From the warp and weft of conversation, story telling, myth and just common gossip that take place in Irish pubs, a vibrant literature has emerged for which Ireland is so justly famous. So just what is the government up to?

Even though Ireland has a stunningly beautiful landscape, it has inspired all too few world-class artists. The irregular hedged and stone walled green fields; the yellow gorse and brown bogs with twinkling lakes and waterways; worn down mountain ranges, glowing with purple heather in the changing light as the clouds scurry across the over arching sky; the shyly placed, moss covered Celtic cross, peeping out from among some ancient ruins… all these mouth-watering sights, which enchant the visitor to Ireland, have been little used by painters as muse and inspiration. Read more of this article »

Posted in Ireland, Op-Ed