Here it is, St. Patrick’s Day yet again and millions of people will be wearing silly “leprechaun” hats and drinking green beer in celebration of they know not what. What little they know of the Irish will have mainly come from Bing Crosby in The Bells of St. Mary’s or Fred Astaire in Finian’s Rainbow. They haven’t a clue that St. Patrick’s arrival in Ireland began the destruction of traditional Celtic religion and the beginning of centuries of mindless enslavement to the Catholic Church. Until recently, the Catholic Church effectively ran Ireland. Its role was officially acknowledged in the Irish constitution.
Throughout its long history, the Church could be relied upon to oppose every advance of science, politics or liberation.
Today, Cardinal O’Connor will be taking the salute from the steps of the cathedral on 5th Avenue, just as if the Church had supported Ireland’s fight for freedom, which it most certainly did not. There will be many women in the parade waving back cheerfully to His Eminence, just as if the Church hadn’t done its very best to keep Irish women “barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen” for centuries. Most disgusting of all, there will be toasts and cheers for the rotund, jolly cardinal whose record in his previous post was one of blatant financial chicanery, transferring millions of dollars of church funds to a legally untouchable cemetery endowment fund so as to keep the money out of reach of victims of clergy sex abuse — and whose work in his present post has included pressuring the United Nations to leave LGBT persons out of human rights bills.
It is the height of irony that such a “whited sepulcher” of a man should be cheered by the descendants of Irish people who came to this country in search of freedom and a new life.
St. Patrick did not drive the snakes from Ireland — not the reptilian variety anyway. In fact, the only snakes that have ever lived in Ireland were the human sort and there have been plenty of them. Myself being the descendant of an ancient Anglo-Irish family, I will claim the privilege of speaking truth about my own people.
We lay claim to heroes: men and women whose selfless dedication and sacrifice in the cause of liberty is a beacon light in the darkness of human history — but we must likewise acknowledge our share of scoundrels and traitors. It is sad indeed to see the circle of Irish-Americans now surrounding and supporting President Trump. Bannon, Spicer, Conway, Pence and more all descend from potato famine immigrants who came to this country despised, hated, feared and loathed — accused en masse of being criminals and moral degenerates. How quickly they have forgotten the animus directed at their ancestors, or perhaps have pusillanimously put aside such memory in their support of a President who has based his meteoric rise on the very same hatred and fear directed at the immigrants of today.
Is life in the West Wing so very glamorous, so addictive and rewarding that the bitter struggles of one’s own grandfathers and great grand fathers are so easily betrayed or are these pathetic examples of the worst of our breed so shallow, so selfish, so afflicted with poverty of intellect and lack of empathy that they neither know, nor care?
Mr. Enda Kenny, Prime Minister of Ireland, is not, I am very glad to say, one who has forgotten history. In his St. Patrick’s Day visit to the White House, instead of the usual boiler plate good wishes all around, he delivered a pointed lecture to Trump on the importance and value of immigrants. “There are millions out there who want to play their part for America — if you like, who want to make America great. You heard that before?”
The reference to Trump’s campaign slogan was deliberate and was lost on no one. Mr. Kenny’s further remarks made very clear what he meant and what the opinion of the Irish at home is about Trump’s policies. This coming from the leader of the only nation in the world to declare marriage and LGBT equality by popular vote (and an overwhelming vote at that) is a message refreshingly free of the hypocrisy of normal politics.
I celebrate the new-found liberation of the Irish from chains of the Catholic Church. I celebrate Irish acceptance of my LGBT brothers and sisters, I celebrate a people whose leader, though from a small and weak nation, is unafraid to speak truth and to teach a lesson in common decency to the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. Forget St. Patrick. Up the Irish of here and now — a people greater and more wonderful than ever!