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Friday 18 August 2017

Eamon Keane: We need St Patrick back to banish booze

Brendan O'Carroll has been selected as this years Grand Marshal of the 2015 St. Patricks Festival Parade
Brendan O'Carroll has been selected as this years Grand Marshal of the 2015 St. Patricks Festival Parade

Welcome to No Go Land. This St Patrick’s Day from around 5pm, I’d be careful moving about Dublin if I were you.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the parade and having Brendan O’Carroll as Grand Marshall should ensure an even bigger crowd. But do we really have to celebrate intimidation, fighting, and vomiting in our nation’s capital?

There are many wonderful things about St Patrick’s Day in Dublin. Take the Parade for instance. I’ve watched with pride as communities who don’t often get mentioned in the media, parade their talents and spirit down Dame Street.

To see young kids who may never get a chance in the spotlight, march down Dame Street twirling their batons is a thing to behold.

But then the clock ticks, the light recedes and the dark comes in. Drinking, fighting, vomiting and the sound of sirens take over.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin asked if we can celebrate without having a drink in our hands.

“We have a culture of alcohol which is the wrong one. I think it is up to all of us to try and get away from that. We have to learn to celebrate without that [alcohol],” he said.

The consequence of this celebrating with a drink in our hands? Once again it will be gardai, nurses, ambulance men and council workers who will pick up the pieces.

I make no apologies for mentioning the experience of an American friend of mine at the St Patrick’s Day Festival. He was a soldier who worked in Special Forces. In other words, he was a guy who wouldn’t be shaken easily. He watched his first Parade a few years ago and later that evening I said I’d give him the tour of the city.

SCREAMING

We went for a meal but we had to leave our city centre restaurant as management bravely tried to cope with drunken diners screaming abuse at staff.

We decided to make our way towards Temple Bar. “This is ugly,” said my American friend as we crossed the historic cobblestones streets. Young lads slammed and pushed into people, hoping to provoke a fight. People staggered down laneways puking on the cobblestones. A young couple stood half naked against a wall.

The Paddy Wagons – how appropriate a name – tore up and down the streets doing their best to cope. 

Dublin can be a great city to go out in. There are good clubs and  many friendly bars to enjoy. But please don’t anyone tell me that the menace and fear on Paddy’s Night is anything to celebrate.

We’re told St Patrick  helped build up Christianity in Ireland. What would he make of alcohol being used to celebrate his memory? He might, like Archbishop Martin, ask what do we really worship in this country? Maybe Patrick could come back and banish the corrupt idea that you can only celebrate if you are out of your head.

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