Saturday 21 October 2017

A nation celebrates, as questions about meaning of 'Irishness' linger

Yesterday Ireland celebrated Irishness. But both terms need definition. For the purposes of St Patrick's Day, 'Ireland' means a rather small Atlantic island, and 70 million people of real or supposed Irish descent. Also for the purpose of honouring our national saint, Irishness means a multitude of things related to history, religion, culture high and low, Samuel Beckett and James Joyce – and, yes, leprechauns and Guinness.

The actual inhabitants of the Atlantic island have trouble explaining themselves to themselves.

In recent decades, they experienced – or created – revolutionary social changes. Their new society was chiefly characterised by enjoyment and love of life. The Celtic Tiger young seemed to have inherited the high spirits of the ancient Irish.

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