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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Where to be on St Patrick's Day....

From Randi Art

Have you noticed that St. Patrick's Day is actually celebrated more in the United States than in Ireland? I mean, where you find Bertie Ahern and Gerry Adams on St. Patrick's Day? Of course, they're in the US attending all sorts of celebrations, dinners and ceremonial occasions. Interestingly, Ahern is also in the US to receive an award on behalf of Ireland in recognition of the wonderful smoking ban. In Adams' case, this time in the states is usually used to raise money for Sinn Féin from those Irish-Americans with deep pockets and republican inclinations -- something he is unable to do this year as a result of restrictions imposed by the US government in response to charges of criminality associated with recent IRA actions. (Of course, while Adams is unable to explicitly solicit money during his trip, you can be sure the impact of the restriction is merely symbolic; nevertheless, there are indications that the "take" this year will be less than in the past)

Yes, it's a Bank holiday in both Ireland and Northern Ireland, and there are plenty of signs that people throughout the Emerald Isle (I just realized that was the first time I've really used that term -- next thing you know I'll be making references to leprechauns...) are going to have a Guinness or two to mark the occasion regardless of their political orientations. In Belfast (assuming the weather clears up, which it is supposed to) it will be musical entertainment provided at all the usual venues, and the folks in Dublin will do their share of parading and general celebrating as well. But the fact remains that St. Patrick's Day is most enthusiastically celebrated across the pond. In many respects it the equivalent of "homecoming day" for many Irish-Americans. As has almost every major ethnic group that originally settled in urban ghettos, the Irish-American community has become suburbanized and former friends and neighbors are now dispersed throughout the country. St. Patrick's Day seems to function as that occasion when people make the trek back into the center city, to that favorite local bar that somehow has survived all the inner-city crises and changes. (In Newark, there are severalsuch places, including the famous "McGoverns" tavern -- which I will write of in a later blog...)

The Irish attachment to the land is truly amazing, and no wonder why when you see scenes like the County Kerry painting at Randi's blog. Truth be told, we've yet to make it down to County Kerry, but we plan to do so on our next trip to the west of Ireland. Each time Randi has come over for a visit, there's been so much to see in so much to do that time usually ran out before we can make it down to that corner of Ireland. On the next trip however we will attempt to make that our starting point, perhaps by flying down to Shannon and renting a car. The picture that friends Kerry and Herman sent for Randi to paint was so strikingly pretty that I thought it was too good to be an actual location. But even our limited travels here have made it clear that there is more than enough aesthetic reasons for all of us to claim some attachment to this place.

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