Smith let’s the Irish in him come out – asks us to forget Brendan Behan and think of Pope Francis instead.

By James smith

March 16, 2014


The Paddy wagons stand at the ready, I read Halton Police have RIDE checks out on the evenings up to and including March 17th – Saint Patrick’s day. The Police have their job to do, I appreciate what they do, I want them to catch-all the drunks who get behind the wheel. Why do so many people use the Patron Saint of my forefathers as a ready excuse to drink and drive?

Well now, the Irish and the drink eh?  A good old cliché and ethnic slur that persists. Lots of examples reinforce this stereotype, Oscar Wilde’s old chestnut of “work being the curse of the drinking class” comes to mind but Ireland’s most famous imbiber- Brendan Behan went one better when he said he was “a drinker with a writing problem”. The Irish men of letters aside, the multi-national booze biz can’t but help themselves, they crank out yet another excuse to get pie-eyed on March 17. Why sure, everyone loves a happy drunk leprechaun right? Have a black and tan, an Irish coffee, a black beer that starts with the letter G or mass quantities of industrial suds from a Brazilian brewer tinted green to kill the taste of genetically modified high fructose corn syrup! But hey! don’t matter if you’re Sullivan, Silverman, Schultz, Singh, or Sanchez, on March 17th everyone is Irish don’t you know it. We’re all encouraged by these vipers to act like “amadans” and drink up to prove it.

The fact of the matter is the booz-up that’s become “ST PADDYS DAY” is starting to get my Irish temper up. A temper that got me in a little bit of hot water when the chair of a Committee of Burlington City Council had to put me in my place just a few weeks ago. I’m sure most of the four and one half million Canadians like me claim Irish decent feel the same way. Sure we want to celebrate our heritage on the 17th by wearing green, and having Jig’s Supper, and yes, we may raise a jar or two. Bur many who cheered Brian O’Driscoll’s team winning the Six Nations Saturday are frankly tired of and ashamed of our heritage being mixed up with drinking contests and other shenanigans that end in fights and green regurgitation. As a son of the land of saints and scholars I’d rather remember the thousands who died at Grosse Isle Quebec, Ireland Park Toronto or Middle Island New Brunswick. I’d rather we celebrate Irish Canadians like Bishop Michael Power, Father of Confederation Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Prime Ministers John Thompson, Brian Mulroney, and Paul Martin. Those in the arts like authors Morley Callahan, W. P Kinsella, actors like Katherine O’Hara, and Martin Short.  Musicians like Stomp’n Tom and Alan Doyle and composer Timothy Sullivan. In Burlington, we have many outstanding Irish, the well-known Torsney family come to readily mind, but there are many many more.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no tea totaler, and booze, has done its share of damage to people in my family over the generations, but As a dogan, I resent the premise that March 17th means get your beer glasses on.  So I have a better idea: In the future lets blame the ides of March (March 15th) or Pi Day (3.14 hey & next year it’s even 3.14.15!) for drunk and disorderly conduct in the middle of March.  As the Feast of Saint Patrick always falls within the season of lent, let’s take some advise from that good Irishman Pope Francis’s  – this Saint Patrick’s day, take some of the money you might otherwise spend on John Barley Corn and donate it to some of those most in need.

Amadan: A band, originally based in Corvallis, Oregon, plays both punk and world music. They are often categorized as a Celtic punk band due to their Irish influences. Amadán is also a Gaelic and Hiberno-English term for a stupid man.

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1 comment to Smith let’s the Irish in him come out – asks us to forget Brendan Behan and think of Pope Francis instead.

  • Donna Z

    I agree. As a descendent of 2 families of Irish immigrants who arrived in 1835 and 1847, one of whom died on the ship leaving a widower and 4 orphaned children to continue the trip alone and without a mother. I find the drunken Irishman stereotype quite tiresome.

    For one I very rarely ever drink, never have, and only 1 or 2 drinks if any. I also dislike potatoes.

    I find that Saint Patrick’s Day has turned into an excuse for folks to drink to excess whether of Irish descent or not. Much like Christmas’ true meaning has simply developed into a selfish gift grabbing event.

    Saint Patrick’s Day should be a day to celebrate our ancestry, reflect upon the trials and tribulations of our immigrant ancestors. Simply sit back and enjoy the traditions of song and dance.