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St Patrick’s Day: A Celebration of Irish Culture Or An Excuse To Drink Too Much?

St Patrick’s Day is rolling around again and this year it falls on a Saturday, meaning a weekend long celebration. Could anything be more perfect? Plus, the Six Nations match is on the day, Ireland v England. What better excuse is there to sit in a pub all day with your friends, sculling pints?

I have to admit I am not overly fond of St Patrick’s Day. The pubs are usually packed, and people get completely inebriated before they even make it into the nightclub. High streets are strewn with takeaway packaging and beer bottles. It isn’t uncommon to see puddles of vomit on the walk home. Let’s face it, we need to ask ourselves the question: has our national holiday turned into a day where binge drinking is acceptable?

Drink driving spikes over St Patrick’s weekend and the Gardaí are expected to be out in full force. According to an iReach Insights survey of 1,000 Irish adults, 58% think “far too much drink” is taken on the holiday and almost 29% think that “a lot of alcohol” is consumed. So I’m clearly not alone in thinking St Patrick’s Day is used as an excuse to go on a bender.

Years ago, pubs didn’t evenopen on St Patrick’s Day. It was a day for parades and mass only. When I was younger, I used to go to mass in the village where I grew up. Even if you’re not a religious person, it is nice to see people in the community which you mightn’t have ran into in years. I then used to go into my nearest town to traipse around after the parade, bumping into people I knew from school. Some of them, as young as 14, were already drunk off raw naggins. Is this really an acceptable way to celebrate Irish culture? Should we not emphasise the parades, the music, the spirit of Irishness?

Now that I am old enough to drink, I usually go to a pub and then a nightclub in Galway where I attend college. We bypass the parade altogether which is a shame because Macnas put on an amazing display. Sadly, it is usually raining in the city of the tribes so people are inclined to get to the pub as early as possible, in order to get a cosy corner by the fire before it starts filling up. This means people are drinking in the early hours of the day, leading to messy scenes at night.

St Patrick’s Day means something different for people up North. There is a constant dispute over flags, what areas parades should walk through, and the PSNI are always on high alert. Sectarian tensions could possibly rise on a day that specifically celebrates Irish culture.

According to The Belfast Telegraph, the PSNI is “preparing a ‘complex’ operation for this year’s St Patrick’s Day in Belfast to tackle any public disorder around the traditional festivities, as well as a loyalist flag protest, three band parades and a Linfield-Glentoran clash.” The PSNI will also be specifically clamping down on students’ house parties in the Holyland area of Belfast.

That being said, the 12th of July celebrators exhibit similar behaviour on their national holiday. People drink too much and anti-social behaviour is abundant. Extremely sectarian behaviour was a part of the 12th celebrations last year, according to TheJournal.ie. So perhaps the problem isn’t how we celebrate Irish culture. Perhaps it is how humans in general consume alcohol, and the audacity it fills people with?

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