As I walked along Cork Street this afternoon I watched as my neighbours made their way home with their children from the parade in the city. They were all decked out in green; Irish rugby shirts and scarves. The kids were wearing bright green tricolour clown wigs. Big smiles were on their faces, and it looked as though they had enjoyed themselves. I was glad for their happiness and sad for their delusion. Who am I to question their national pride? They have every right to be proud to be Irish, and I am glad for the momentary joy this brings them.
Still, these are the same people I have stood shoulder to shoulder with in one anti-austerity demonstration after another. For years now we have suffered together the same very Irish corruption and political and élite theft that generations of ordinary working people have suffered from in this country. Every year on March 17 Dublin City Council throws out the same tired old bread and circuses and like slaves on cider we dance in the streets at a bullshit version of Irishness. It gets tiring. No doubt later today I will see the same folk on Meath Street, sodden with drink, giving out that their kids are bored and want to go home. Is this what it means to be proud to be Irish?
It just so happens that the government have made the most of the coincidence that this Paddy’s Day and the centenary of the Easter Rising fall a week apart. For the government and the city corporation this is nothing more than a spectacular source of revenue. Tourists are flooding into the country for a bit of the black stuff and a watered-down potted history of Oirish Independence. It’s all about the money – money that we’re certainly not going to benefit from. All that is expected from the Dubliners is that they settle down, have one too many pints, and let the real people get on with the business of lining their pockets. This is what annoys me the most about Paddy’s Day.
Last year I made the decision not to bother with it, and this year I have done the same. Why should we bother, and why should be play up to the silly stereotype they make of us? Yes, the kids do deserve to have a good time, and people really ought to take some pride in their national identity. My complaint is not with this – not at all. What I would like to see, coming from our commitment to our struggle against the wealthy and unjust, is a recognition of our identity on our own terms; a show of who we really are, and not the apes we are supposed to be. I could be proud of that.