News Billy Keane

Tuesday 16 September 2014

St Patrick gives a rare interview – and tells all about those snakes

Published 17/03/2014 | 02:30

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Irene Turegano and Alba Palacios from Seville, Spain partake in St Patrick's Festival celebrations. Photo: Douglas O'Connor
Irene Turegano and Alba Palacios from Seville, Spain partake in St Patrick's Festival celebrations. Photo: Douglas O'Connor

ST Patrick appeared to me in a dream last night and I promised our patron saint I would convey his best wishes to all of you on this his feast day.

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There was more, too, but we'll get to that later on, in what is St Patrick's first interview in over 1,500 years.

Why St Patrick should choose a humble barman as his vessel may seem strange to some but, in his autobiography or Confessio, the holy one describes himself as the "sinner Patrick" and as "a most uncultivated man, the least of all God's people". He's a saint without ego, is St Patrick. One of our own.

St Patrick was a bit of a dreamer himself. "I saw a man coming from Ireland", he wrote in his Confessio. "The voice of the Irish (said): 'We appeal to you to come and walk among us.'"

Most scholars are of the opinion the Confessio was written by St Patrick and is a genuine document. We try to separate myth from reality.

St Patrick confirmed, exclusively, that he had nothing all to with banishing of the snakes. "There wasn't a snake to be seen when I was in Ireland," he said. "The whole thing was made up by the church centuries later when the English were doing their best to turn Ireland protestant."

The saint strokes his long white beard and scratches his back with the nook of his shepherd's crook. Then he takes a deep breath and we get going again with the interview.

"I have an application in to be allowed to come back again to Ireland, where there is much work to be done. I'd start with the homophobic and racist snakes. We'll banish them to the southern states of America, where they would be among their own. The Klu Klux Klan are ironing their white sheets and cutting slits in them as we speak."

Then the interviewee turns interviewer.

"Do you put them shamrock things on top of the pints of Guinness?" he asks.

"No I do not," I reply indignantly. "I'm a porter filler, not a cake decorator."

"Good man," says St Pat. "The Irish have this terrible habit of selling ourselves short by turning into absolute eejits at the first sight of a foreigner on St Patrick's Day. I'd ban lads shouting 'upyaboya' for a start. We must be ourselves and not just a caricature of ourselves. The Irish are a wonderfully intelligent and resourceful people.

"There is great hope but only if ye have the confidence to say who ye are right now. The world goes mad with reckless lending and so do we. The world has gone the other way and the only solution is to cut, cut, cut. The Irish are well-educated, imaginative people. Let's try and grow rather than slash. Any fool can cut a rose but it takes a gardener to grow one."

THE saint is passionate now. "Let's show the world we are a nation of thinkers and leaders." We ask if "the shamrock story was real or a makey-uppy yarn like the one about the snakes?"

"I was up in that mountain for seven years a slave and all I saw was sheep-eating grassy stuff and the like. I wouldn't have known one from the other. All made up for propaganda. Back then, there were those in society who continually twisted or distorted the facts to fit their own beliefs and agendas."

"They're still at it," says I.

"I know, I know," he says with a deep sigh. "Did you know that my father was a married priest? I'll bet they didn't teach ye that in school? And did ye know I was an illegal alien?"

Yes, St Patrick was an emigrant. In the Confessio, he wrote about his loneliness for home.

"How I would have loved to go to my country and my parents, and also to Gaul in order to visit the brethren and to see the face of the saints of my Lord! God knows that I much desired it; but I am bound by the Spirit."

So he wonders, then, do our diaspora know he's one of them? Lonely for his own land and his own people.

The St Patrick message from the 1,500 year-old interview is still as valid now as it was then. His final words are simply put: "The Irish must speak the truth and believe in their own ability. Good luck," he says.

And off he went into the Celtic twilight from whence he came.

Irish Independent

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