St. Patrick’s Day, and the curse of Ireland’s dreary diversity

Serious question: Can any official state funded national event in Ireland be promoted, these days, without the presence of at least two drag queens?

At some point, over the last decade, the official Irish definition of “diversity” seems to have changed. Once, it meant what most people assume it means – that we are a country of many different people, with different backgrounds and opinions and religious beliefs, and that there is a place at the national table for everyone, regardless of those backgrounds.

Now, by contrast, diversity seems to mean only that the alternative, minority lifestyles and cultures have become the officially approved, recognised, and promoted lifestyles and cultures.

We have so many organisations – all state funded – representing minority voices that it is often hard to remember that something like 90% or more of the people on this island are straight, and white, and live relatively conventional, largely uncelebrated lives. At the other end of the spectrum, the 10% of the public who make us diverse appear to gobble up all the attention. To cite just one example, gay pride appears to have gone from pride week, to pride month, to pride year, to pride decade. If Christmas went on this long, people would understandably begin to get sick of it. In both instances, there is only so much Mariah Carey one can take.

In this context, claims that events like the St. Patrick’s Day festival announced above represents “oneness” become hard to take seriously. That launch photo above does not represent “oneness”. It represents a very narrow demographic, but one with almost untrammeled political and cultural power. The rest of us are expected to contribute to oneness by applauding with gratitude, and keeping any annoyance about it to ourselves, lest we be denounced as hated bigots.

The photograph above is instructive in another way: It shows a Government minister surrounded by the colourful, the artistic, the LGBTQ+, the representatives of minority voices. It is about as good a representation of the politics of the country in 2023 as you are likely to see. There is no place there for the representatives of farming, or faith, or the community alert, or the fishermen, or even the dreaded Tidy Towns. There is no space for the working class, or the tradesmen, or the builders.

Between the outside, and the Government, there is instead a well-heeled moat of activists in all their diversity, which is in itself about as diverse as the leaving cert class of Clongowes Wood College circa 1982. Tossing an array or rainbow colours on middle class college educated activists does not make them diverse: It makes them middle class college educated activists dressed in rainbow colours.

The only recognizable symbol of Irishness in the whole thing, you might note, is that both the Minister and the lady to her right as we look at the photo are dressed in Green. There are costumes that are recognisably Spanish or Latin American in origin. There is a Texan-style hat that would not look out of place on JR Ewing or Cliff Barnes. There is a little girl impeccably dressed in what appear to be the national colours of Colombia.

I write here often that there are two Irelands – the Ireland in which most of us live, and the Ireland of the Governing class. The differences between the two Irelands are legion, but perhaps one of the most important is their attitude to the country itself.

Most Irish people, it is fair to say, are deeply proud of the country’s distinctive heritage and culture. Many members of the Governing class, however, often seem more proud of the fact that Ireland accommodates other cultures. This, in itself, is not necessarily a dreadful thing, but it is certainly odd that it should be the main focus for celebration on Ireland’s national day.

To put it another way: Go to Mexico City for Dio de los Muertos, and you won’t find many fellas dressed as Saint Patrick. Spend thanksgiving in Kansas, and Leprechauns will be hard to spot.

St. Patrick’s Day 2023, by contrast, seems less – based on this launch – to be a celebration of Irishness, so much as it is a celebration of almost everything but traditional Irishness. You would not blame an ordinary Irish person who looks at this launch and feels functionally excluded from their own national day. It is inclusivity, but for the right sort of people.

There’s another point, as well, which is I think worth making: In Ireland, the constantly promoted message, culturally and politically, is that to receive the attentions and the adulation of the state and media, it is almost necessary to be different, and to be colourful, and to be worthy of celebration on foot of that difference. There is no room, in these celebrations, for the ordinary. Is it any wonder so many young people are wondering whether their gender is, in fact, the correct one? Is it any wonder so many of them profess to feelings of oppression? Joanna, after all, is just a plain, ordinary, everyday girl. But Joe, the transformed and transfigured evolution of Joanna, is a special and celebrated part of Ireland’s emergent diversity. Show a child what is valued, and they will seek it out.

I suspect, like me, many people just ignore it now. You tune it out. The constant dreary preaching and celebration and drag queens and head-dresses and dullness. You have to hand it to the Irish establishment: They are the only people on earth who can make a rainbow boring.

Share mdi-share-variant mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-printer mdi-chevron-left Prev Next mdi-chevron-right Related
Comments are closed

Do you agree with President Higgins that Irish Primary Schools "should teach sexuality in its fullest sense"?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...