Paddy’s Day and Prejudice

St Patrick’s Day is fast approaching, bringing with it a jam-packed few days of booze, debauchery and general divilment. Most of us are still haunted by the ghosts of Paddy’s Days past – after all, there’s nothing like an entire day’s worth of drinking to make some seriously questionable life choices. But why do we celebrate this day, dedicated to our patron saint, in such an unholy manner? Why is the day renowned worldwide as a legitimate excuse for a massive piss up?

Because apparently, that is just what we do.

We all know the stigma attached to us Irish folk. We like drinkin’, fightin’, and farmin’. But mostly drinkin’. The ‘drunken paddy’ stereotype goes back to the time of the famine, when many Irish people were forced to emigrate to England and America. According to one paper on the topic, those who were caught intoxicated on the streets by police had to pay an on-the-spot fine or spend the night in the drunk tank. The prosperous English and Americans could afford the fine, but the (literally) poor Irish couldn’t, and therefore were banged up for being publicly inebriated more often than their British counterparts.

Fast forward to 2015, and the stereotype still exists, but this time not without good reason. We are a nation of binge drinkers, whether we like to believe it or not. The whole nation was up in arms recently after Dr Ciara Kelly chastised Operation Transformation Leader Eilish Kavanagh for consuming a week’s worth of alcohol units in one day at the races. Dr Kelly was mocked for being a ‘dryshite’ on social media, while Eilish was defended by the masses because “sure she was only having a few drinks like”. This nonchalance towards excessive drinking is the perfect example of just how ignorant we are of our nation’s bad habit.

It’s time to hit y’all with the stats:

A 2013 survey carried out by the Health Research Board, revealed that more than half of Irish drinkers aged between 18 and 75 could be classified as harmful drinkers. That means a whopping 1.35 million of us are guilty of drinking irresponsibly. It was also shown that one in five drinkers engage in binge drinking at least once a week, while 64.3 per cent of 18-24 year old drinkers consume six or more standard drinks on a typical drinking session. Many of us college students probably wouldn’t deem that as a lot, but technically every time we go out we are drinking in excess.

Basically, it doesn’t matter how many times a week you take a drink, what matters is the manner in which you consume it. Drinking once a week may not seem like all that much, but when you are drowning your body with six pints, three Jagerbombs and countless shots of Sambuca it is a problem.

Bringing us back to the holiday dedicated to the man who banished the shnakes from Ireland (although he seems to have a left a few behind in Coppers), St Patrick’s Day has pretty much become a medley of alcohol abuse and anti-social behaviour worldwide. A South Carolina island even wants to ban its annual Patty’s Day – yes, that is what they refer to it as. *shudder* – party due to the huge amount of public drunkenness. Sullivan’s Island attracts thousands of tourists every year for their shamrock shindig, but the locals have had enough of the party-goers’ bad behaviour.

‘We’ve had problems with public drunkenness and lewd behaviour on the streets and in public last year and so because we are a residential island, we don’t want to invite those kinds of people to come to the island to be publicly drunk,’ said the Island’s Mayor.
Perhaps it’s time we change the way in which we celebrate. Sure, knocking back a couple of Guinnesses or hot whiskeys is a perfectly appropriate thing to do. But more alcohol-free events should be promoted, at least during the day.

Do we really, as a nation, want one of our public holidays to be associated with consuming too much alcohol and causing a helluva lot of trouble? Do we ever want to shed the silly drunken leprechaun image that we were unfairly landed with (but have since lived up to) so many years ago?

Give that some thought before you show up to the parade pissed, dressed in nothing but a tricolour with ‘POG MO THOIN’ written across your backside. It’s neither aesthetically pleasing nor original.

La Fheile Padraig Shona Duit.

Jade O’Leary

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