Friday 20 April 2018

Students who get drunk and riot are just following an ancient stereotype

It is a sorry reflection on how we handle St Patrick's Day that when it's over, we're always relieved if we haven't made complete fools of ourselves once again. So, let's hope Mayor Bloomberg of New York has put aside that bizarre little teapot that Enda Kenny gave him, possibly referencing the teapot Charles Haughey gave Margaret Thatcher. Taoiseach, teapot – must be an Irish thing. At least he's not seeing any St Patrick's Day riots on his screen.

Now, what would the response in Ireland have been during the hey-day of the Irish joke, if some British comedian had quipped: "How do Irish universities celebrate the feast day of the man who brought Christian learning to Ireland? They close down, while students get drunk and riot."

Formal protests, for sure; a great deal of Hibernian huffing and puffing; reminders of the cultural debt that early Christianity in Britain owed to Irish missionaries; Irish columnists heatedly denouncing racist caricatures. The IRA, in a purely peaceful protest, would bump off a few off-duty UDR men and RUC reservists, and possibly an inconvenient wife or two. And, of course, there would have been endless allusions to 800 years of oppression, Cromwell, the Famine and the Black and Tans.

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