Some years ago, the voluntary alcohol ban began on St Patrick’s Day, requesting off-licences in Dublin city centre refrain from selling booze until 4pm.
It was the same logic that determines when one allows small children at parties to tuck into the sweets and cakes — usually towards the end of the three-hour riot, so that by the time the full sugar high kicks in they’ll be someone else’s problem.
Of course, “voluntary” implies done of one’s own accord, by choice, an arbitrary decision, something you would never allow at a children’s party. I’m not sure “voluntary” suits the Irish psyche.
The ban on alcohol being taken into the city via public transport was not voluntary, which was why so many people on the bus last Friday were clutching unusually cloudy looking bottles of Club Orange.
We Irish are always incensed by the suggestion we can’t be responsible around alcohol, but yet we repeatedly, collectively confirm the stereotype.
I’ve never heard a genuinely plausible theory as to why the Irish drink the way we do. I made a documentary nearly a decade ago, specifically looking at how and why women drink more now than previous generations, and much of it was to do with the relatively new culture of wine.
But in a more comprehensive, cultural sense, amid all the experts I asked, no one ever gave me a tenable rationale for our broader relationship with alcohol.
There were many conjectures — our oppressed history, the weather, Brehon Law, Christianity, 18th century European cafe culture taking 300 years to reach us and hence pubs remaining the stalwarts of our social fabric.
And my personal favourite, the excuse I would give if ever arrested at 4am for drunk and disorderly behaviour: “An immense capacity for superstition and magical belief.”
Magical belief aside, stereotyping doesn’t tend to be a positive experience, and the Irish have long been a lazy punchline for tired jokes around the world.
The American satirical sketch show Saturday Night Live is a repeat Paddywhackery offender — from the Saoirse Ronan Aer Lingus attendant plugging in-flight potato meals oddity, to the recent Oscars skit parodying Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, with ludicrous, unintelligible accents, and the addendum: “Wow! And they haven’t even started drinking yet.”
Criticism abounds after any and all of these sketches, and invariably people ask if they would be so quick to make these quips at the expense of other ethnicities.
The answer is a resounding no, but maybe, just maybe, it’s because we can take it. Maybe it’s because we know that behind these attempts at humour are people who like and admire us, desperately trying to be in on a joke they don’t really understand.
Every St Patrick’s Day we roll our eyes at the images of revellers around the world donning clip-on orange beards, giant novelty leprechaun hats, “Luck of the Irish” sweatshirts, and posing with poorly poured pints of Guinness.
Then we don our own clip-on orange beards, giant novelty leprechaun hats, “Luck of the Irish” T-shirts (we’re too hardy for sweatshirts) and pose for photos with properly poured pints of Guinness.
Cultural appropriation is a term bandied about routinely, and often inaccurately in recent times. It is the consumption of aspects of another culture — imagery, food, music, clothing or artefacts — typically by members of a more dominant society for their own benefit.
But intent is always important in such discussions. A good example is the once prolific wearing of Native American headdresses by unaware young white people at festivals. They wore them simply because they are beautiful things, and once the unintentional insult was highlighted, they stopped.
But what are the parameters, if any, by which cultural appropriation can become cultural appreciation?
Surely the answer comes back to intent: the latter is honouring an admired culture, whereby the former is undermining or disrespecting it, and the only way to really know the difference is to ask those who owned it in the first place.
This is an undeniably important ideology when discussing Native American headdresses, but less so when the symbol in question is a large leprechaun hat.
I think we all accept that the oppression and exploitation of leprechauns didn’t really extend much further than Darby O’Gill and the Little People.
So much of what is parodied about Ireland around the world is caricature mostly created by ourselves, the bits of us we’re happy to let others play with. They can be tourists in our minds, but not in our souls.
Many of the same people who in one breath read our books, listen to our music, recite our poetry and obsessively trace their ancestors back to antediluvian times in the hope of even the most distant genealogical Irish connection, crack out a “top of the morning” or Plastic Paddy joke in the next.
In reality, they want to be us; they want a tiny piece of the enigmatic, inscrutable, elemental bedrock that is Irishness.
So maybe we should let them have the giant hats and the silly accents that don’t exist outside American casting agencies.
The truth is, we have never needed to defend our intellect or our attraction, because it’s unquantifiable, and maybe that’s why we are able to let it go.
Guinness off a duck’s back.