Kevin Myers: We boast about how much alcohol we drink, but if outsiders agree they are called racists
ALL right; so now we've got a Government. Therefore let it hit the ground running, as promised, by ending the hideous and demeaning farce of St Patrick's Day.
The first move should be the cancellation of the undignified caravan of public representatives to the US. President Obama can, I'm sure, swallow his disappointment at losing the two-minute photo opportunity with the Taoiseach. So let our new Taoiseach stay in Dublin, doing the job we just elected him to do, and if Obama really does want a bunch of shamrock to mark the day (which is unlikely) let our ambassador do the necessary. That's what he's there for.
St Patrick's Day has become an occasion of national humiliation for years now. It should really be called St Patrick's DNA, as across the world, Irishmen and women have shown in full and shameful manner how we cannot be trusted to celebrate the day without making drunken disgraces of ourselves. The example has been set by our embassies, which actually boast of the ruinous levels of hospitality that they unleash on their guests. To measure one's national pride by advancing the cause of cirrhosis amongst one's friends is truly bizarre: Liver Dance.
Perhaps not surprisingly, with governments endorsing the Drunken Paddy stereotype at embassies across the world, the plain people of Ireland dutifully conform to expectations, both at home and abroad. But even without that endorsement, we have already informally established the caricature elsewhere, with the transformation of First Holy Communion into an excuse for girls to be draped with huge Joan Collins wigs, fake tan and make-up.
And the Catholic Church, as broken as a Mormon lap-dancing club in Afghanistan, is speechless at this whore-mongering degradation of the consecration of bread and wine into the living body and blood of Jesus Christ, the redeemer of mankind. And no, I'm not saying that -- it's what the Catholic Church actually believes. Yet it nonetheless allows the parents of a seven-year old girl to dress her up like a trollop in order to celebrate this momentous day, and then to spend the aftermath getting paralytic, courtesy of the special bar-extensions. Men once gave their lives to keep the faith alive: now it's an excuse for alcoholic comas.
It doesn't stop there. The survival of Irish traditional dance is one of the cultural triumphs of this country: but it has now been turned into a burlesque caricature as little girls are attired like tarts, with bogus ringlets, eyeliner and false eyelashes, and yet more tan. And they are then adorned in phony dresses apparently torn from the Book of Kells; the result looks like some grisly Hibernian minstrel show. Dance is dance, it doesn't need bogus costumes, hair extensions or make-up to make it authentic.
St Patrick's Day, for all the "sophistication" of the Dublin parade, has thus become the one-day distillation of a ghastly year-long caricature. If the BBC were to offer comparable stereotypes of such paddy-whackery, our embassy in London would be howling about the racist portrayals of the Irish. Indeed, when the mayor of New York made some perfectly accurate observations about Irish behaviour there on St Patrick's Day, the 'Irish Voice' predictably shrieked: "Mayor Bloomberg outrages Irish Americans with 'people that are totally inebriated hanging out windows' comments."
I'm sure lots of people were outraged, indignation/anger/ offendedness being the default mode of the Irish. The point is: was Bloomberg right? If he was, what's the problem? Do Italians or Swedes or Spanish hang drunkenly out of windows on their national days?
So, we all know the caricature is essentially correct. Our per-capita alcoholic consumption is exceeded by only a couple of central European states with names like Boldova that have officially been declared lunatic asylums by the UN and placed in armed quarantine. But what makes our figures worse is that we have a huge population that doesn't drink at all, so that those who do drink really do drink. Yet far from being ashamed at this achievement, it forms the heart of a really perverse national characteristic. We like to boast how much alcohol we consume -- but if outsiders then agree with us, they're indulging in anti-Irish racism, and the cry goes up -- "Call the speech police immediately! Our feelings are being hurt!"
Governments can't do much about the social culture of the people they rule. After all, Russian ways survived 80 years of totalitarian communism. Moreover -- and this might come as a shock to you -- Enda Kenny is not quite Joe Stalin, so he's unlikely to change the habits of the Irish people. But he can alter the practices of government. Embassy booze-ups on St Patrick's Day must be ended forthwith, with all this year's receptions cancelled, not least because they'll actually be paid for by our grandchildren. Pubs and off-licences should only be allowed to open an hour after St Patrick's parades are over.
Street drinking must be rewarded with booze being poured over the offender's head. Public urination will be punished by making offenders, male and female, pass water into specially made 220-volt floor-sockets at the local garda station.
Enough of law. Time for order.