William Spencer Reilly, who organized the Sober St. Patrick’s Day Celebration in New York, hopes to bring the celebration to Ireland, according to the Irish Times.
Reilly has been meeting with support groups in Dublin and members of the Belfast City Council, and aims to get an appointment with Alex White and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, who attended the inaugural Sober St. Patrick’s Day event in New York.
Reilly says his short term goals are to double the size of the Sober St. Patrick’s Day in New York, launch the event in Ireland, and find corporate sponsorship to help the event grow.
Reilly developed the idea for a sober St. Patrick’s Day in January and he raised money for the event largely through the help of charities. Weeks before St. Patrick’s Day, Congressman Joseph Crowley raised public outcry against the “Irish I were drunk” and “Irish yoga” (showing someone bending over and vomiting) products made by Urban Outfitters and Old Navy. Word about the Sober St. Patrick’s Day event spread. Acts offered to perform, people asked the event to come to their city, and the event sold out. Acts at the event included comedy, step dancing, and musical performances by All Ireland Fleadh champions. Irish writer and actor Malachy McCourt was a special guest.
Reilly got the idea for the event on St. Patrick’s Day 2010 when he saw a 22 year old man finishing a Budweiser and wearing a tee shirt with “Irish today, hungover tomorrow” written across the front. The young man told him that the shirts were part of a booming business. O’Reilly says, “A light bulb went on: I knew no other nationality would put up with that crap. Whether Irish or Irish-American, I don’t think we’ve stood up enough as a people to combat this. “
He had another reason for creating the event. Seven years ago, he lost a family member to addiction. Reilly has nothing against drink companies and says, “The root of why I did this is because of the great misinformation and ignorance of this drug.”
Reilly’s work has been making strides and he says, “There are a lot of Irish or Irish-Americans who have drinking problems, but so do other nationalities. Rather than just propagate the stereotype, I think there’s a new awareness that we can finally do something about it.”
You can learn more about Sober St. Patrick’s Day by visiting his website soberstpatricksday.org.