A Letter For America




From top: Taoiseach Enda Kenny with President Obama at the White House this week; Dan Boyle

Is that Shamrock in your pocket?

Or are you just identifying with an Ireland, which if it ever existed, certainly doesn’t exist now?

Dan Boyle writes

Growing up in Chicago as a child, I always had a sense of being distinct. I was part of a tribe, a tribe that thought itself and wanted others to believe it was special.

This was particularly true on the Irish Day – Paddy’s Day. The parade down State Street I remember as always being impressive, spectacular, entertaining.

The Chicago River was dyed green for the occasion. No ecological hang ups then. If questions were asked it was probably thought that an already badly polluted river could hardly be damaged any further.

In the evening we would be at a social in some parish hall. The band would never veer from three/four time, each tune they played would have a toor-a-loora chorus.

Later in the evening, after the appropriate amount of drink was taken, some loud voices would have been raised and arms flayed about energetically, in that male bonding ritual ‘we’ were renowned for. This to us was what being Irish was all about.

The family return to Ireland removed a lot of the mystique that had been created. Paddy’s Day wasn’t celebrated with anything like the same sense of pizzaz.

Walking (never in formation, never in time) with the Boy Scouts behind a half loader lorry stopping every five yards (we hadn’t gone metric yet) carrying the usual tableau of an embarrassed St. Patrick wearing a cotton wool beard, rarely stirred the loins.

In the years since, Ireland as is and Ireland as imagined in the United States of Irish America, are as as far apart as ever. Although it is now a different chasm which exists between the two alternate realities.

The US of A seems to have sunk further into a myth of identifying with an Ireland, which if it ever existed certainly doesn’t exist now.

An Irish political party (known to us all) which fundraises quite successfully there, certainly doesn’t want to disabuse that deluded branch of our diaspora of its cartoon, cardboard vision of Erin.

In Éire Nua we have a more confident sense of ourselves now, a sense of that has less need of being informed by how others see us. A confidence born from challenging our own myths, in becoming less accepting of the systems, the structures and the people who were meant to be obeyed in the Ireland that was.

We are leaving the old Ireland behind us. A new Ireland may be uncertain but we carry a hope it can be better.

The one link that remains at this time of year, between a modern forward looking Ireland and an Irish America ingrained in a mythological past, is the visit to The White House by the Taoiseach of the time, even the temporary ones.

When this embarrassing ritual is removed from the calendar, Ireland will have taken a huge step in achieving political maturity. I have never been persuaded by arguments that these displays of obsequiousness do anything to promote tourism or industrial investment.

The place of an Irish head of government is in Ireland on our national holiday. These occasions have the opposite effect of diminishing our sense of national pride.

We no longer need to warm ourselves over the embers of a dying empire. 2016, not its twentieth century counterpart, is the time for Ireland to take its place among the nations of the World.

A wider World. A more real World.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD . Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

31 thoughts on “A Letter For America

  1. Nigel

    I dunno. I’m all for challenging myths, but I like to believe, perhaps naively, that our head of state and other dignitaries going abroad on Patrick’s day is an act of generosity and openness, an acknowledgement of our long diaspora, a sense that whatever daft notions they might have gotten into their heads about Ireland over the years we still think of them fondly. I know there are less attractive, more cynical interpretations, but feck cynicism just this once.

  2. munkifisht

    If we’re proud of or heritage, then we shouldn’t give a tuppeny f*** what the rest of the world do with a day where they get to pretend to be Irish. Ye don’t see the yanks bemoaning people eating burgers or flying the stars and stripes on the 4th of July. No, and why, because they couldn’t care less what the rest of the world thinks about them.

    After the Irish pub and the youth, Paddys day is probably the biggest export we have. It’s a stunning victory, a free advertisement for Ireland held every year, a massive global event, and one that I don’t think any country, even America, comes close to replicating. So what if we’re sold as twee and drunkards. As my old mate Oscar Wilde said, the only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about. Tourist dollars are still dollars. I’ll be enjoying a ceili in Brixton tonight and my workplace in Westminster is putting on Guinness and soda bread tomorrow and I’ll be feckin loving it.

  3. Same old same old

    Chris T on a bicycle.
    I totally agree with Dan!

    Somebody slap me!

    If they should send anyone it should be that spa Higgins

  4. Funster Fionnanánn

    We will be tugging our forelocks at the feet of wealthier nations for centuries to come.

    Relax and have a pint.

  5. Owen

    I was annoyed reading the article, because I assume it was going to be standard St Paddys day ‘look at the state of us and Irish Americans’ cynicism, but by-jaysus Dan has a point!

    Why is the head of state still going to the US on Paddys day!? Why are we always politically linking ourselves to them? I’ll hand back my passport if anyone goes over next year and shakes Trumps self-promoting, stumpy meat cleaver.

    1. Rob_G

      “Why is the head of state still going to the US on Paddys day!?”

      – all the other leaders are insanely jealous that Ireland has this enshrined annual access to the US president; it is a good relationship to cultivate, and we would be foolish not to make the most we can out of it.

      (The Taoiseach is not the head of state, btw).

      1. Owen

        “it is a good relationship to cultivate, and we would be foolish not to make the most we can out of it”

        Did you read the article or just sifting through the comments to try find something to jump on?

        1. Rob_G

          I sifted through the comments; yours was the most ill-thought out and easiest to refute, that’s why I picked it.

      2. f_lawless

        “it is a good relationship to cultivate”
        I’m not entirely convinced – hasn’t it left us with an economy heavily dependent on US multi-nationals by facilitating their tax dodging and thereby creating ill will among other EU states? Taking the long view, I don’t believe it’s a solid basis for a healthy economy. And don’t get me started on the use of Shannon airport by the US war machine due to our “special relationship” ;)

        1. classter

          You are misdiagnosing.

          Our own small market, conservatism & fear of failure is the root cause of this dependence.

  6. formerly known as @ireland.com

    I am with Munkifisht.

    Does Dan think we should move on to the Chinese?

  7. Clampers Outside!

    I see where Dan is coming from, and very pleased that it didn’t turn into a cynical diatribe as others pointed out, but I’d have to take some of what Dan says and put it through a mixer with what Munkifisht said….. and wash it down with a good tea…. ’causeI don’t drink :)

    Have a good one y’all, lovely day in Galway

  8. Huh?

    Once a year, by rote, the Irish PM has access to the President of the USA, a photocall yes, but that comes with chat. It’s a diplomatic coup each and every year, I don’t think anyone said it was (directly) for trade or tourism. Like it or not, international relations comes down to people, personality and relationships. We have an annual team building exercise.

  9. Observer

    Having meetings with foreign ministers, Heads of Government and Heads of State allows us to get stuff on the agenda which would otherwise not be discussed.

    If we were a France or a Britain that may not matter that much. But we are a small country that floats on the international currents of trade. Any opportunity to get our national interests discussed is of value.

  10. Spaghetti Hoop

    I agree with Munko also. When I lived in Britain in the 1990s I was proud to see Mary Robinson visit there and give talks and establish good relations. She was hugely respected by academics, students and civil servants there. That was pre-1994, and I know now that she was building bridges at a very rocky time in Anglo-Irish relations.

    One problem is that while Irish ministers (not Heads of State btw) partake in their Paddy’s Day Exodus, their words of support mean nothing to the diaspora if they’re are only looking for investment…give us the vote first.

    The other problem is that Kenny is a muppet. Now, a puppet too, in a taoiseach sense.

  11. classter

    ‘We no longer need to warm ourselves over the embers of a dying empire.’

    The US may arguably be in decline but it is still far & away the most important & powerful nation on earth.

    This kind of refusal to accept practical realities is not helpful for the Greens

Comments are closed.