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