An Associated Press article March 10 discouragingly summarizes measures taken by universities around the country to deal with widespread drunkenness associated with celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day (“Drinking problem: Colleges struggle to deal with rowdy St. Patrick’s Day parties”).

Drinking, rowdiness and stupidity now have come to mark what was once, in Ireland, a holy day on which people attended Mass to honor the country’s patron saint.

Last year, your own staff coverage of St. Patrick’s Day observances in Portland (“For early St. Patrick’s revelers, eggs and brew,” March 18, 2013) focused entirely on the 6 a.m. opening of the city’s bars and the lines of people waiting for the novelty of a sunrise pint, ignoring entirely the Irish-American Club’s parade on Commercial Street and an open house at the Maine Irish Center that drew several hundred people for a cultural celebration – no alcohol involved.

The stereotype of the Irish drunk persists and is laughingly nurtured when others are universally (and rightly) decried.

Perhaps if the St. Patrick’s Day conversation focused on four winners of the Nobel Prize in literature (George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney), a legacy of traditional music that has crossed over into countless genres, and a complex history of resistance to oppression, instead of green beer, we could get beyond leprechauns and “Blarney Blowouts” to an appreciation of St. Patrick’s Day that doesn’t make many Americans of Irish heritage cringe.

Ellen D. Murphy



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