She’s been a big fan of St. Patrick’s Day all her life, but now MIRIAM KERINS is struggling with mixed emotions on the eve of this year’s celebrations…keen to celebrate our Irishness with pride, but devastated by recent scandalous revelations (in Tuam) which “muddy our country’s and national saint’s good name” and reveal a grim tale of callous collusion between State, Church and some families…
Believe me, I’m a proud Irish woman. A dyed-in-the-wool, plain-speaking Dubliner, born in the north inner city’s St. Joseph’s Place Cottages off Dorset Street, where our family lived in my grandparents’ house among salt-of-the-earth ‘townies’ until I was five-years-old when we moved to a beautiful new three-bedroomed house in the concrete jungle known as Kilmore West Coolock…or, as we called it, D’Lock!
My grandparents had strong Welsh connections, working there most of their lives in the Dunoon hotel in LLandudno, a beautiful seaside town on the Conwy County Borough, located on the Creuddyn peninsula, a place where I spent all of my school holidays, joyfully staying with my Nana and the place where I first found my appreciation of St. Patrick…or rather his actual day, and indeed his origins.
You see, aul Paddy, the patron saint of Ireland was, according to Nana, (an English and music teacher before she married my grandfather and embarked on a life of hotel management), apparently a Welshman known as Maewyn Succat, who, as a young boy was kidnapped by pirates, sold into slavery in Ireland, worked as a shepherd, escaped back to Wales, became a priest, returned to Ireland and rid our country of snakes. Whew! What a man!
All of this supposedly occurred during the dark ages of fifth century Ireland A.D. Sure is it any wonder that, as a child, I was hooked and fascinated by this young man, this remarkable saviour of our concupiscent souls, all born with original sin and an in-built urge to do bad and lustful things! Or maybe that was just us Irish wimmen who were created that way! Either way, as a kid I loved going to the St. Patrick’s Parade on Dublin’s O’Connell Street, where, because I was a short ass (still am), my darling dad would lovingly hoist me high on his shoulders so I could see, squeal, honour, enjoy and experience the delights of the passing cadre of clowns, army cadets, marching bands and majorettes from around the world, marvel at the giant floats and soak up the whole glitz and glam that accompanied the genuine full Irishness of the St. Patrick’s Day experience.
I’ve got fond memories of celebrating our national day of ‘oirishness’ down the decades, and when I had my own family, I lovingly and proudly helped my girls make little green Bishop’s Mitres to pop on their heads, (being careful not to obscure their obligatory green-ribboned pig tails), pinned a bunch of shamrock, roots an’ all, to the lapel of my greenest geansaí as we all headed to our local parade in Howth, always followed by a traditional family lunch in the Marine Hotel in Sutton, because my dear mother-in-law who, was called Patricia, celebrated her birthday on 17th March. And, as we drowned the shamrock in copious amounts of suspicious looking green cocktails, and the kids guzzled green milkshakes, we revelled in the knowledge that ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’ was taping on the VHS back at our house! Aah j’memories!
However, given the revelations of last week’s atrocities where those tragic babies, under the care of the stinking rich Bon Secour nuns (whose hypocritical motto is Good Help to Those in Need), were callously discarded in such a cruel and inhumane manner, muddying our country’s and our national saint’s good name and christian reputation on the world stage, I have to confess, this year, I’ll be approaching Paddy’s Day with a lot less enthusiasm.
You see, as events take place all around Ireland, and in our lovely County Roscommon, I think this proud leanbh na hÉireann will sit this Lá Fhéile Pádraig out in a more respectful manner. I just don’t feel like celebrating when I now know how a significant generation of Irish people – our countrymen and women, who are famously loved all over the world due to our kindness and our hospitality and caring nature – could have historically helped to harm and defile the guiltless and the innocent.
I’m not just furious with the religious orders, I’m also incandescent with rage at those families who callously colluded in their own daughters’ downfall by serving them up like sacrifices to the State who imprisoned them in these institutional hellholes where their starved and stolen infants were trafficked and hawked out to the highest bidder; and where those who didn’t survive were slung into a putrid sewer. And bear in mind these were no ordinary babies, folks; these were actually wonder-kids that those sadomasochistic sisters of no mercy jettisoned into a ditch, because remember, their superhuman mothers had managed to miraculously impregnate themselves, meaning fantastically, these new-borns appeared to be entirely fatherless. Oh yes, methinks back in da’ day, St. Paddy clearly missed a few poisonous, evil, demonic slithering reptiles, aka deadbeat dads…a shower of wasters!
I worry that, in 2017, our national day, where we celebrate our Irish culture and our Irish identity, won’t so much ‘hail glorious St. Patrick, dear saint of our isle,’ (written by a nun, Sr. Agnes BTW), rather it will be overshadowed by this scandal. Our once-colourful feast day where the world goes green in our honour, where being Irish has been associated with happy families sporting tri-colour painted faces, with Americans warbling did-li-eye ditties as they claim their Oirish ancestry; where we have footballers declaring for our national team under the ‘Irish granny’ rule, and where (sadly) some drink excessively and see how many pints of green Guinness they can neck in an hour causing projectile vomiting and attendances at A&Es to spike, will instead this year, be rendered deafeningly mute and hypocritical.
You see, sadly, the world may now see us happy-go-lucky leprechauns as not so much a resilient nation who had been historically abused by a British empire who tried to seize our land, force us to bow and cow to them, forsake our language and teach us double entry book-keeping; but as a nation whom itself has connived and colluded with the State and the Church to abuse its very own. Ireland the abused has morphed into Ireland the abuser. We can no longer airbrush our past atrocities; or the part that some of our citizens played in what I would call our 20th Century Genocide of single mothers and their children out of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. This generation, our generation, will not allow that to happen. The dark spectre of this stigmatisation, brutalisation, degradation and ostracisation will no doubt mar and blight this March 17th’s veneration and exaltation of Ireland’s most famous and best-loved (alleged) original Welshman, who I’m sure, is not so much ‘on Éireann’s green valley look(ing) down in (thy) love,’ but rather in revulsion and utter disbelief.
So my lovely Roscommon readers, as we bang a drum, raise a glass, wave a flag and break into a jig this year, however you’re celebrating, I sincerely hope you have an amazing day. I thank you all for your wonderful hospitality in making me and mine welcome in your highly underrated and undervalued county, and, hand on my heart, I try to promote and rejoice the great place that is Roscommon wherever I go and feel really happy here; but I hope you’ll forgive me if this March, while I’ll have the craic, don the green gúna and possibly the tacky tinsel green, gold and white wig, (‘cos it embarrasses himself), my heart and my solidarity will be with those Irish mammies and their babies; and instead of raising a drink to St. Patrick I’ll say a prayer for them, for indeed, they have now become everybody’s babies.