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When Irish eyes are crying, our tourism bosses have another hit on their hands

"THIS made me happy in a sad way. Or sad in a happy way. Or something. I love Ireland."

Ah, St Patrick's Day. The time of year when we all unite in, not nationalism (dirty word), not quite patriotism (too jingoistic), but, er, misty-eyed sentimentalism?

It has taken the good people in the Failte Ireland marketing department to show me what St Patrick's Day is really about.

You thought it was about blue-kneed majorettes with big teeth and bigger hair, children filled with E numbers, bright green pints, gangs of English stag parties in leprechaun hats, the annual bow and scrape and bowl of shamrock at the White House.

NOSTALGIA

It's not about drinking, though that's a part of it; it's certainly not about parades once you're over 12; and it's definitely not about going to Mass, though it's still a holy day of obligation.

It's about crying into your pint, or over your keyboard, about good old Ireland. It's a celebration of misplaced nostalgia for Cathleen Ni Houlihan, and oppression and the poetry you'll never write but think you should.

Oh, and the Docklands. I'm not sure how we're meant to be nostalgic about the Docklands and corporation tax, but apparently this too is a trigger.

Failte Ireland's new video taps right into that vein of maudlin sentimentalism that characterises this country better than anything. It was released on Tuesday and by lunchtime yesterday had clocked up 200,000 views.

The video is a sort of clarion call to a plucky little bunch who've been badly treated but are just so smart, and gosh darn adorable, that we've managed to get through it despite so many of us having to leave the ould sod.

It's full of snazzy statistics about how educated, cultured and generally nice we are, as well as mentioning our lovely food and landscape. It's sort of rueful about our predicament, and just stops short of congratulating us for saving the euro.

(No mention of Margaretta D'Arcy, 12pc corporate tax, Travellers' mortality rates, asylum-seekers, institutional abuse or other sad things, mind.)

The bit about leaving the ould sod is nicely glossed over; it mentions at one point that we have the youngest workforce in Europe, which is a bit mad when you consider the number of our young people who are propping up the workforces in Perth and London and Toronto.

The quote at the top of this piece is from a Dubai-based friend who has lived there for a few years now and is regularly cynical, weary and profane about it.

The video, despite glossing over emigration and despite its glorious wallowing in our fabled uniqueness, even made her cry. I despair.

But that's the idea. What makes us Irish is not any of the culture or landscape or capitalism the video gloriously exhorts, but our almost joyful approach to despair.

MISERY

We love it, in the same way Irish personal interactions rely on trading information on who has died. Wisha, 'tis sad. But sure, 'tis the way it's always been and t'will always be this way.

Watching Enda defy political correctness to go walk in the gay-banning New York Parade and listening to the endless revelations on GSOC and Rehab, it becomes clear.

The reason we vote the way we do – relentlessy for the same identikit parties with the same identikit politics – is because we like it this way.

We love the misery, the sorrow and the ability to wallow. As someone who used to read the sad bits of books over and over just for a good cry, I can't criticise this. I get it.

Now, just give me a moment, please. Oh, and a tissue. Happy St Patrick's Day.


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