Truly Irish

One student's opinion about getting back to his Irish roots

The Spectrum

Every St. Patrick’s Day, the true spirit of Ireland seems to get lost in a sea of people in green shirts, drinking their livers rotten, who can’t even name an Irish city except for Dublin while “Shipping Up to Boston” is played virtually everywhere.

What happened to the true Irish spirit?

As one of The Spectrum’s most Irish editors, I felt it was my duty to defend the essence of Ireland before it is bastardized yet again on St. Patrick’s Day.

The Irish people are known for two things globally: drinking and the color green. This explains why St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are the way they are – but come on. If you’re really trying to celebrate the Irish, shouldn’t you go beyond two stereotypes?

From the Romans to the British, the Irish people have been oppressed for more than a millennium. Historically speaking, Ireland is a new country, one that is still not fully unified. This prolonged yearning for freedom has led to the Irish developing a unique culture.

To be Irish is to welcome people in to your home, to enjoy the happy times and help each other in the bad times. The Irish know there are struggles and they know how to support people without expecting anything in return. The Irish never impose their beliefs on you but will always defend their own. To be Irish is to be useful and to value your individuality.

What does the typical American St. Patrick’s Day celebration consist of?

Drinking and green.

This is quite frankly insulting to everything Ireland has worked for. The stereotype that the Irish are a bunch of alcoholics is an incredibly insulting and degrading one.

Let’s get one thing straight: the Irish love drinking. But so do the English, the French, the Germans, the Italians and basically the rest of Europe. So why are the Irish singled out?

This harkens back to when the Irish were the bottom of American society. Alcoholism and prostitution were rampant in Irish parts of New York City and Boston. Over time, the Irish got their act together, but the stereotype remains.

As an Irishman, I love Guinness and Harp as much as the next guy. Am I an alcoholic? No, but whenever I get drunk in a large group (in Canada, of course), there’s always one person who will say I am. They don’t know who I am, but they see an Irish guy drinking Guinness and they just make up their mind right there on the spot.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t drink and wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. But we shouldn’t only drink and wear green. We should be celebrating Ireland, its struggle for freedom, its welcoming people and its celebratory traditions.

Go to an Irish pub, order a shepherd’s pie and a pint of Guinness with your closest friends and family, laugh and be merry. Watch step dancers, watch bagpipers, watch Irish societies parade down the streets. If you’re Irish, then be proud of how far your people have come, from the slums to national celebration.

While I’m upset by how most people celebrate, it shouldn’t take away from the fact that most people do celebrate. It’s amazing to think people all over the world celebrate the Emerald Isle and a people that have been attacked and persecuted for many centuries. But the Irish not only survived; they’ve spread out beyond their own humble island to the rest of the world. We are a proud, global people. We are the Irish.

Éirinn go Brách!

Daniel McKeon is an assistant features editor and can be reached at