“P is for Plastic Paddy”

Plastic Paddy – A person who retains a strong sense of Irish cultural identity despite not having been born in Ireland or being of only (if any) partial Irish descent. Urban Dictionary

The 17th of March is that day of the year that has been in your calendar since the 1st of January. New Years Eve was a heavy night, I bet, but you also know the litres of Guinness you’ll consume on this blessed day could leave you stumbling home at 2am wrapped in the Irish tricolours, probably whistling along to Whisky in a Jar. You don’t really have to be Irish to enjoy the craic, you just need an unhealthy appreciation for alcohol that can see you through a fifteen hour session.

Kilbennan_St._Benin's_Church_Window_St._Patrick_Detail_2010_09_16
The saint himself, St Patrick. 

St.Patrick’s day is always a grand affair which reaches far beyond the contours of that rock across the Irish Sea. In the UK, Birmingham holds the title of the third largest St Patrick’s Day parade outside of Dublin and New York. Now, I am from Nottingham, and whilst the city cannot boast an achievement like our neighbour in the West Midlands, our parade does evoke community. The 17th of March was unquestionably a focal point of my childhood where it was a non-alcoholic day centred around the parade and watching the Irish dancing in Market Square, eating Irish stew with soda bread.

But why is this day celebrated so passionately?

Ireland was first invaded by the Normans in the Twelfth Century and has forever since been controlled by the English, before becoming incorporated as one the mighty British Isles. It’s people have been starved of their independence for over 700 years and have rioted against their subjugation in bloody rebellions across the centuries. Animosity for the British did not end with the revolutionary creation of the Irish Free State in 1922; it spanned on and travelled North dividing the counties along partisan lines, Protestant versus Catholic, Unionist versus Nationalist. For the Irish generations before us, their early lives were not only ridden by religious and political division, but they also lacked prosperity as Ireland’s failing economy and bouts of starvation caused unemployment and ill health. Throughout the 1900s, Ireland continued to lose it’s younger generations who migrated to the UK, the USA, Canada, and Australia, all searching for opportunity.

ireland-the-proclamation-of-independence-of
The Irish proclamation of independence. 

St Patrick’s Day is a nostalgic day for those who left Ireland generations ago to escape the economic and national struggle that characterised Irish society. It is a day of unity, however, enjoyed by a people who only in recent history have to come to cherish and realise the notion of an independent and free Ireland. The Irish have never benefited from centuries of imperial dominion or economic triumph, nor have their politicians influenced global development in the same way as their British conquerors had. The Irishman was never omnipotent, nor was he ever rich or free.

The Irish people are honest with their identity and are proud for what they have fought for. To be a Plastic Paddy is to be a person that admires and wants to cultivate their affinity to this triumphant national character. It is the Irish genes in the genetic “make-up” of the Plastic Paddy that is so highly revered and painful to detach from. Come the 17th of March, Ireland’s provoking history that has united the generations of descendants around a triumphant Irish identity will become obvious, both in their spirit with each other on a parade and in their next pint glass.

It is Ireland’s modest yet determined history that deserves our grand tribulations tomorrow. And the army of Plastic Paddy’s, in true Irish fashion will pay tribute tomorrow, to their Fathers and Grandfathers and even their Great-grandfathers before them, via a pint of Guinness.

Enjoy the craic,

Alex O’Byrne-Lynch

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