Tag Archives: St. Patrick’s Day

Catching up with modern Ireland: March

I’ve now spent most of the first quarter of the year producing my Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited blog serial, which explores aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Before continuing the series, here’s another end of the month wrap up of developments in modern Ireland and Northern Ireland:

  • Pubs in the Republic opened on Good Friday (30 March) for the first time in 91 years, the result of repealing a 1927 law that also banned alcohol sales on Christmas Day and St. Patrick’s Day. The March 17, booze ban was lifted in 1960. Good Friday liquor sales remain prohibited in Northern Ireland.

Irish pubs opened on Good Friday for the first time in 91 years. This Dublin establishment photographed during my February visit. Note E.U., Irish and U.S. flags.

  • Speaking of St. Patrick’s Day, here’s my annual roundup. Also from this month, my piece on “More hand wringing about Catholic Ireland.”
  • Former U.S. President Bill Clinton will receive the Freedom of Belfast honor 10 April, in ceremonies that mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. He also will visit Dublin.
  • Ireland expelled a Russian diplomat, joining the U.K., U.S. and other nations in a growing feud with Moscow. The Russians promptly ordered the Irish envoy to its capital to return to Dublin.
  • The Republic’s referendum on whether to repeal the country’s constitutional ban on abortion is now set for May 25.
  • A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland cleared a hurdle in Parliament. Such unions are already legalized in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as the Republic.
  • The U.K. is set to leave the E.U. at the end of March 2019. Resolving the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic remains a major sticking point of the Brexit, according to this Q & A from the BBC.
  • Hawk Cliff Beach, about 30 minutes south of Dublin, is becoming Ireland’s first “clothing optional” beach.
  • Atlas Obscure published the photo feature, “A Last Look at Ireland’s Disappearing Storefronts.” Graphic designer Trevor Finnegan has been built his collection of images over eight years, including this 2014 feature in the TheJournal.ie.

Butcher shop in Waterford, County Waterford. Photo by Trevor Finnegan.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, 2018

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here’s my annual holiday round up of news and features about the Irish and Irish America.

Annual Washington Festivities

Barack and Enda … Enda and Donald … Donald and Leo. The mid-March Washington meeting of U.S. president and Irish taoiseach has changed each of the last three years. Given the political uncertainties for both leaders, we could see another pairing in 2019. What’s more important is that Ireland, including the north, continues to receive this annual day of unmatched attention.

Coverage of this year’s early meeting:

St. Patrick’s Parades
  • In the digital age, it’s possible to watch the Dublin parade from anywhere in the world via Ireland’s RTÉ Player.
  • In New York City, marchers will carry a banner demanding “England Get Out of Ireland” for the 70th year, the New York Times reports.

For several years I’ve made an extra effort to visit St. Patrick’s churches in my travels. See my full list. Here are a few favorites:

  • Belfast, Northern Ireland: Given the city’s long history of sectarian strife, the opportunity to practice my Catholic faith felt infused with extra meaning and significance.
  • Rome, Italy: The church’s foundation stone was laid 130 years ago as Irish tenant farmers battled absentee landlords. The Vatican’s response to the trouble wasn’t welcomed back home.
  • Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Typical of the Eastern U.S., the parish and earlier iterations of the church date to the early 19th century, when Irish immigrants helped to build a vast system of canals, railroads, and turnpikes. A new building and vibrant Irish-American community were established by the early 20th century.

Stain glass image of St. Patrick in Harrisburg, Pa. church.

Fading of the Green

“The ranks of Americans who trace their ancestry back to Ireland – long one of the most prominent subgroups in American society – are slowly declining,” Pew Research reported a year ago, citing U.S. Census Bureau figure in an update of its original 2015 post.

The trend continues. The latest available data in the 2016 American FactFinder shows 32.3 million American identify as having Irish heritage, down from nearly 36 million in 2006. This map used to be much greener:

The American Conservative offered a review of Breandan Mac Suibhne’s book, The End of Outrage, which “studies the Irish habit of ambivalently accepting the present while willfully forgetting the past.”

Under the headline “Slow Fade of Pennsylvania Irish,” the review by Charles F. McElwee III continues:

The dispersing of Irish Catholic hamlets to suburbia, accompanied by the closure or demographic change of parishes, has further erased remnants of this once identifiable cultural tribe. … Millennials will likely be the last generation to fully comprehend … [Irish Catholic] tribal qualities. The Irish Catholic experience peaked during the Second Vatican Council, but has slowly faded with the death of older relatives, the changed cultural makeup of urban neighborhoods, the dissolution of cash-strapped and scandal-ridden parishes, and an overall indifference towards tradition in this modern era.

Euros and Greenbacks

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Ireland released “U.S.-Ireland Business 2018: A Two-Way Relationship.” The 92-page report tells the story of how over 700 established and new U.S. companies continue to invest in Ireland; and how up to 400 Irish firms now have operations in the U.S., while 300 more export to America. U.S. firms employ more than 155,000 people in Ireland; Irish affiliated entities have more than 100,000 workers on their payrolls in all 50 states.

Fields of Green
  • There’s been a small uproar (tempest in a pint?) since January, when ESPN’s Max Kellerman suggested Notre Dame University should ditch its “Fighting Irish” mascot as a “pernicious, negative stereotype of marginalized people.” Writing in the The Federalist, Matthew Boomer responded: “As an Irish-American and Notre Dame alumnus I am happy to explain why calling for the leprechaun’s head, far from being a blow for justice, is an utterly futile and self-serving exercise in which one attempts to establish progressive bona fides by tearing down an actual symbol of progress.”
  • With baseball season just a few weeks away, former news researcher Bill Lucey bats home a nice post about “Baseball and its Irish Roots” on his DailyNewsGems blog.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, 2017

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll be updating this post through the day with news of the Irish and Irish America on this special day.

Kenny urged to skip St. Paddy’s Day visit to Trump

You know global politics have entered uncharted territory when the Irish leader is urged to boycott the annual St. Patrick’s Day visit to the White House. But that’s how toxic U.S. President Donald Trump has become in the wake of slapping travel restrictions on immigrants and other visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries. A federal judge has temporarily blocked the order.

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny “will need the luck of the Irish if he is to pull off this year’s visit without significant criticism,” the Washington Post said in a wave of coverage on both side of the Atlantic about the scheduled visit. So far, Kenny insists he will fly to Washington in mid-March.

An online poll in the Dublin-based TheJournal.ie measured 34 percent of respondents saying Kenny should make the trip, compared to 33 percent believing he should dump Trump. Another 28 percent said Kenny should make the trip but voice displeasure with the policy. At New York-based Irish Central, online polling showed 47 percent support for Kenny meeting with Trump, with 27 percent opposed and 23 percent in favor of the Irish leader visiting the U.S. but not the White House. (Both poll results as of 4 February.)

Kenny was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Trump shortly after the American’s victory in November. “He is looking forward to doing business with Ireland and I asked him specifically about Patrick’s Day, he is looking forward to continuing that tradition over many years,” Kenny said.

The Irish Times editorialized that the annual visit “is not just a hooley.”

The celebrations express publicly on the part of both the Irish and the U.S. sides a commonality of interests, values, and heritage, of interconnectedness. And, importantly, a shared commitment to the North’s peace process and political reconciliation, to which this annual jamboree has made a significant contribution. …

There are other ways [than boycotting the visit] to convey to Donald Trump the conviction of our people that he has broken with some of the noblest traditions and values of his country and ours , and our determination that we will not be party internationally to his narrow “America First” unilateralist project.”

Trump to continue St. Patrick’s Day tradition at White House

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has invited Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the White House for St Patrick’s Day in 2017, continuing a tradition that dates to 1952. Trump and Kenny spoke with each other for about 10 minutes on 9 November.

“He understands Ireland very well, he was complimentary about the decisions made about the economy here,” Kenny told The Irish Times. “He is looking forward to doing business with Ireland and I asked him specifically about Patrick’s Day, he is looking forward to continuing that tradition over many years.”

Trump owns a golf resort in Doonbeg, County Clare, which was “buzzing with activity” the day after his election, the TheJournal.ie reported.

Read my five-part blog series about U.S.-Irish relations at St. Patrick’s Day, which explores 1916, the year of the Rising, and 25-year anniversaries in 1941, 1966 and 1991; plus 1976, the year of the American bicentennial.

Below, watch a U.S. Embassy in Ireland-produced video about the White House shamrock ceremony.

U.S.-Irish relations, from tin teapots to smart phones

U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin F. O’Malley says he is fond of the 2013 book “A History of Ireland in 100 Objects.” He received a copy upon being named to the post in the fall of 2014.

Ambassador Kevin O'Malley

Ambassador Kevin O’Malley

To O’Malley, a descendant of County Mayo emigrants, the most poignant object in the book is the “Emigrant’s Teapot,” a symbol of Ireland’s massive one-way migration from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, and an enduring reminder of home.

But this is the age of the smart phone, a smaller, more powerful object than the tin teapots once carried across the Atlantic. The owners of these modern objects can video chat with each other from either side of the ocean.

Likewise, the U.S.-Ireland relationship also has evolved from its historical roots, O’Malley told the St. Patrick’s Day gathering of Irish Network-DC.

One big example: more Americans now work for about 250 Irish companies in the U.S. than Irish employed by 700 American companies in Ireland, O’Malley said.

Another example: nearly one in six people living in Ireland today has non-Irish parents, just as many U.S. residents are the children of immigrants. Demographics are changing rapidly in both countries.

“We will look different in the future. Ireland will look different,” O’Malley said. “We need to connect to the young people, the next generations.”

To create new economic links between the U.S. and Ireland, O’Malley launched the Creative Minds Series. The monthly programs invite prominent U.S. artists, writers, filmmakers, digital culture innovators, and musicians to share their experience with young Irish audiences.

“The changes of today are much better than in the past,” O’Malley said. “We want to continue to benefit from the same close relationship.”

Then–and who could avoid doing this on 17 March–he sipped some well steeped Irish-American sentimentality.

“All of us have our own teapot,” he said. “We carry it within us. It is something special; something not necessarily definable.”

Irish Design_Car 1.jpg (414×234)

From ‘Ireland in 100 Objects,’  this teapot is in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough Park House, Castlebar, Co. Mayo.


Last word on gays in St. Patrick’s parades

Irish Central founder Niall O’Dowd gets the last word on this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade season, and whether gays can march under banners proclaiming their sexual orientation.

There are many good and decent people who cherish and honor the act of marching in the parade, O’Dowd writes. “It is extremely disheartening to see them tarred in any way with the fallout from the LGBT issue.”

He continues:

If you stand and watch the parade for even a short time that is what comes across, the sheer joy and exuberance and pride of those taking part. The issue of gays marching is lost on most of them, from a Catholic high school band from Texas, to Catholic university alums, to a business organization like the IBO.

The parade is their definitive statement of their identity, their time to celebrate their history and heritage.

Back in the 19th century when the Know Nothings were shooting and killing Catholics, marching in such parades was a dangerous business for fear of being identified and attacked. Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral came under direct attack by the Know Nothings in 1836 and was saved by AOH defenders.

The times have changed for sure, but some would hang a scarlet letter over all who take part in the parade today even though they have absolutely nothing to do with the machinations of the parade committee. Instead they are merely honoring their forefathers and the battles they won that allowed us to enjoy the status of the Irish in America today.

That’s is why the parade will endure, despite the poor leadership, because it is deep in the bones of our people.

Solas Nua prepares for Irish Book Day in D.C.

Forget the parades and over emphasis on tipping pints, a Washington, D.C. organization called Solas Nua (new light, in Irish) brings something more meaningful to St. Patrick’s Day: contemporary Irish arts.

Since 2005 group volunteers have dedicated most of their March 17 to handing out free copies of Irish literature and poetry. The “Irish Book Day” event is a “celebration of the richness of Irish culture.”

WTS Front

This year, Solas Nua is introducing a new collection of short stories and poetry by Ireland’s best contemporary writers. What’s the Story? includes work by Mary Costello, Kevin Barry, Elaine Feeney and others in the 139-page book.

Solas Nua volunteers will give away thousands of copies of the book at Metro stops including Dupont Circle, Gallery Place/Chinatown, Judiciary Square and Columbia Heights during morning and evening rush hours. Other locations will be tweeted throughout the day by @SolasNuachtReaders are invited to share their responses using #whatsthestory on Twitter and Facebook.

The organization also has two film screenings coming up in its Irish Popcorn! series: Anam An Amhráin (Soul of the Song) on March 15 and The Irish Pub on March 31.

Visit the Solas Nua website for more details about these and other film, theater, literature and music events during the year. Consider volunteering your time or making a donation. You’ll enjoy the parades and pints even more if you help.

Gay pride v. St. Patrick

UPDATE 2: No surprise here: The tentative deal referenced below has been swept off the table by parade organizers, according to the Boston Herald. This situation could change again, but now I expect an ugly parade-day scene in Southie.


The Boston Globe and other media outlets say a tentative deal has been struck allowing a gay advocacy group to march in the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. The reported agreement, brokered by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, contains a provision prohibiting the group from wearing T-shirts or carrying banners that proclaim their sexual orientation.

This situation could change before the March 16 parade. But as noted in most media stories about the issue, the demographics and character of Boston’s “Southie” neighborhood, once a solid Irish-Catholic enclave, have changed dramatically in recent years.


With St. Patrick’s Day less than three weeks away, the showdown over whether gay groups can march openly in two of America’s most famous March 17th parades is nearing a climax.

The Los Angeles Times offers this rundown on the situation in New York and Boston, where each city’s newly elected mayor says they will refuse to march because parade organizers continue to ban gays. Here’s another version of the story from USA Today.

Gays march in Dublin‘s annual parade.

Gays are welcome in Dublin's St. Patrick's Day parade. Image by The Guardian.

Gays are welcome in Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Image by The Guardian.

Naturally, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has offered her typically snarky take on the Big Apple controversy:

It has just always seemed strange to me that gays were fighting so hard for so long to bust into such a hoary, boozy, corny tradition. Didn’t they have something more fun and cool to do?

But a quote from Dublin drag queen Panti Bliss, a.k.a. Rory O’Neill is the most provocative part of the piece. S/he suggests that the Manhattan parade organizers to pious Orangemen in Northern Ireland, “very much tied up in an old Ireland that doesn’t really exist anymore.”

It will be interesting to see if parade organizers in either city give ground by the time the parades step off.

Visiting St. Patrick’s in the Federal City

It’s a month until St. Patrick’s Day, and the annual parade in New York City is already getting plenty of attention. I’ll circle back to that and other issues in the weeks ahead.

First, I wanted to begin the countdown by attending Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., established about 1792, “the oldest parish in the Federal City.” You can read the church’s history here. This link details the church’s windows and statues, including St. Patrick, below.

The statue is a little different than most I’ve seen. The saint holds the obligatory shamrock and bishop’s crosier in his left hand. The more prominent sea shell held out in his right hand, according to the church, “represents the means by which St. Patrick baptized thousands of Irish.”

It’s a beautiful church, though not likely to surpass Old St. Patrick Church in Pittsburgh as my favorite Catholic shrine and place of prayer.

St. Pat's 2

St. PAT's 1