Begrudgers see "Paddywhackery" - but they really just wish they were Irish

The dour, self-loathing-Irish brigade was out in force this week. Indeed, only the Irish could bemoan the spectacular news that many of the world’s major landmarks will turn green on Saint Patrick’s Day, including Niagara Falls, the London Eye, Berlin’s iconic TV tower in Alexanderplatz, and South Africa’s Table Mountain.

Despite this marketing coup, which will help promote tourism in Ireland and Ireland itself in these times of great need, the merchants of doom were deriding the decision.

Newstalk’s Ivan Yates led the charge as he huffed and puffed on his morning radio show, deriding the stunt as a pure case of “Paddywhackery”. In fact, he believed this fantastic promotional drive was “actually urinating tax payers’ money up against Niagara Falls.”

Regardless of what Mr Yates believes, the fact is simple — on March 17 the rest of the world will be green with envy at Ireland. And rightly so.

What other nation gets the world to celebrate its national day en masse every year? What other nation has millions, if not billions, toasting its health?

It is easy for Irish people to dismiss such a warm appreciation for their homeland, but you can be sure the British wish St George’s Day, and the Scottish St Andrew’s Day, produced such widespread warmth for their piece of old sod.
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Regardless of whether you think St Patrick’s Day is a load of old shamrocks and shillelaghs, as an opportunity to market and promote Ireland it is unrivaled.

Leprechauns, "Riverdance", and Aran jumpers are simply part of our brand — like it or not. And no matter how much they make some people squirm, they are part of the reason Ireland and Irish culture punches well above its weight.

Why is the Irish pub a worldwide phenomenon? Because it is a place to meet friends, have a beer and enjoy warm hospitality. Ireland’s icons are non-threatening, unlike England’s bulldog or Scotland’s thorny thistle.

And while Irish people abroad may feel stereotyped as an extra in "The Quiet Man", I think this says more about their po-faced lack of confidence than anything else.

Ireland has a great track record of using its culture, and the warm affection other countries have for it, to its advantage.

This week saw Vice President of China Xi Jinping arrive in Dublin, a highly significant milestone in the relationship between the two countries. This momentous occasion was the result of many years of work behind the scenes. But long before the Taoiseach was pressing the flesh with this most senior of political figures from China, "Riverdance" was helping foster friendship.

When one of the largest trade missions to ever leave our shores, comprising of 174 Irish business people from 82 Irish companies, journeyed to China in 2003, Tiananmen Square was awash with tricolours. But this display of respect and affection was not for the trade delegation, but to mark Riverdance’s historic performance in the Great Hall of the People.

And just like "Riverdance" produces groans of “paddywhackery” among some self-loathing Irish, so too does Waterford Crystal. However, it was this iconic brand that was used to help transform the White House into an open house on March 17 for Irish dignitaries.

Dot Tubridy (a cousin of Ryan Tubridy) began the tradition of presenting a Waterford Crystal bowl of shamrock to the President of America back when John F Kennedy was in office. To this day the tradition survives.

So while the sight of what the begrudgers call “plastic paddies” draped in their psychedelic green outfits will cause some to frown, the fact that this year more than ever the world will turn green on St Patrick’s Day should be celebrated.

And the begrudgers should remember that on March 17 there are, as the saying goes, only two kinds of people in the world — the Irish and those who wish they were.