As a child St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland always meant two things – a day off school and sweets!
It was something of a tradition to go watch the parade and eat sweets with whatever cousins happened to be lying about. Usually a congregation of relatives would descend on our grandparents' house.
What struck me as I made my way to the FitzPatrick hotel in Manhattan for a press briefing for the Irish journalists covering the New York parade was how different attitudes in America can be. Attitudes to a day that I remember being fun, but as an adult is now caught up in politics.
As this was my first St Patrick’s Day in NY, there was a sense of adventure to be had with the day, and how right I was. Following a briefing on the day’s events, all waiting reporters were bussed to Gracie Mansion, home of New York City's mayor.
Sitting in the media van, I couldn’t help but feel like the five-year-old who had just been handed a bag of sweets to watch the parade in Ireland. I was sitting in a van with some of Ireland’s most talented and well-respected journalists and I had to think how lucky I was at 24 to be reporting on the day’s events in New York and included in such a wonderfully talented bunch of people.
I think being a journalist – and the lifestyle that goes with it – is something that only someone with a passion for news and telling a story truly understands.
As we made our way into Mayor de Blasio's residence it was like walking into a lost society of sorts – a lost Irish society – where there was everything from the shamrock to an Aran sweater doing the rounds in the iconic house.
Following the small talk and mingling it was down to business with early morning speeches from de Blasio and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. While each noted the other’s accomplishments, it was uplifting to hear the New York mayor make a toast to the good luck of the Irish race and raised a glass to the affiliation between two nations, adding Slainte to what was a well-received start to the festivities.
He presented a ‘glass apple’ to Kenny which almost became an omen of the day as the shiny glass symbol of two countries slipped from the mayor’s hand and crashed to the ground. It seemed de Blasio had the luck of the Irish on his side as the apple remained in tact.
Watch Mayor De Blasio almost smash the Irish Apple:
The mayor, ‘the apple is whole, the apple has landed.’ De Blasio said the apple was a significant emblem of New York. He acknowledge the patience and fortitude of the Irish people.
De Blasio referred to Gracie Mansion as the "people's house" and it certainly lived up to that name. The room was alive with the Irish spirit and a certain peace. It was a historic day as members of the PSNI and An Garda Siochana shared a cup of tea and chatted under the roof of the "people’s house." A union of two powerful forces.
Back in the city and it was back on the beat for the delegation of Irish journalists. Some wanted to add color to their pieces by going to St Patrick’s Cathedral, even though a media invite had not been extended; others wanted to file copy.
One thing I found strange was the fact that no media invite had been extended to the delegations to attend the St Patrick’s cathedral service. It would appear Cardinal Dolan thinks we don’t need a good Irish mass on the day that celebrates our Irish identity. Perhaps Cardinal Dolan will be more forthcoming with the invite next year.
The sharp Manhattan air took hold as Kenny was doorstepped by the hungry news journalists on the steps to the Irish Consulate.
We all had a deadline and we all wanted the answer as to why Enda Kenny had refused to pull out of the controversial parade as Mayor de Blasio had done, pledging his allegiance to the LGBT community by not marching.
Kenny described St Patrick's Day as ‘Ireland’s Day.’ A more apt description couldn’t have been described by St Patrick himself, one onlooker observed.
As I stood along Fifth Avenue with the thousands lined there, three things struck me.
One being the solidarity the PSNI marching with An Garda Siochana. Two being the 9/11 victims' families marching with the NYPD and FDNY. This was most thought-provoking – to see the red, white and blue represent so much more than one could ever imagine.
It certainly puts the LGBT row into perspective in that immediate sense of what is right and what is wrong. Sometimes we need to just let something go for the greater good of a cause, or in this case, being Irish.
As I stood next to an American family, who were giving their kids and grand-kids an education lesson, I realized that Irish children are privileged by the Irish sense of what St Patrick’s Day is about – by once being handed a bag of sweets and smiled happily as we watched the colorful floats.
Now by no means is there anything wrong with an education but there are somethings that are supposed to be enjoyed and St Patrick’s Day is one of them. I had heard the parade was a lot duller that back in Ireland.