Looted Irish Treasure Recovered in Britain

A hoard of treasure including medieval silver coins, some military items and a Bronze-Age axe and spear-head that were looted from Ireland have been recovered and returned to the National Museum of Ireland.



The use of metal detectors in Ireland requires a licence. It is suspected that several people searched for and found the historical treasures between 2009 and 2012 and removed them illegally. Some 899 items were removed from the County Tipperary area, a location that was already in the news this year for the discovery of a 17th Century Pot of Gold Found in the Foundations of an Irish Pub. Some of the newly recovered coins date to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The bronze spear-head dates to between the years 1400 and 900 B.C. – some three millenia ago!

Doctor Kelly is the keeper of antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland:
The most striking part is probably the coin hoard. It includes 28 medieval coins that were all found together as well as 30 silver coins that are also medieval. There are coins dating from the reign of King John to Elizabeth I and from Georgian and Victorian times all of which suggests a range of finds were made.

The British Museum are believed to have reported internet messages about the illegal theft of the items to their Irish counterparts. With the assistance of the Norfolk Constabulary in the UK parts of the vast hoard were recovered and returned to Ireland.

Seamus Lynam is the Acting Director of the National Museum:
The recovery underlines the continuing threat posed to the portable archaeological heritage of Ireland by metal detectorists. Many items similar to those recovered have been offered for sale in recent times over the internet and are the subject of on-going investigations. The recovery shows the determination of the National Museum, the GardaĆ­ and other State bodies to protect the nation’s heritage and demonstrates the ability to recover important heritage objects even when they have been illegally removed from the jurisdiction.

This episode highlights the difficulties faced by not just Irish but all National Museums in preserving their nations heritage. Without the assistance of the British Museum it is unlikely that the 899 items would ever have been returned to Ireland, where they can be studied and viewed by tens of thousands of people.

by Michael Green
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Divisions In Irish Government Over Abortion Laws

The Fine Gael and Labour Coalition Government are committed to implementing legislation on foot of the X-Case. This 1992 Irish Supreme Court case confirmed that a woman was entitled to an abortion in Ireland if her health was threatened. This included the risk to her health of suicide and it is this provision that is causing so much trouble for the Government.



Fine Gael are perhaps the most conservative of the larger political parties in Ireland with many of their T.D.’s (members of the Irish Parliament) being from rural districts. Some of their Dublin T.D’s are now also very concerned about the new legislation and it is clear that they will vote against the proposals.

The proposed legislation does not actually change the law of the country relating to abortion. Rather, it clarifies and formalizes the procedures that should be implemented when the medical profession encounter such difficult scenarios.

The impetus for the legislation was brought about by the tragic death of Savita Halapanavar who was denied an abortion and died from complications relating to a miscarriage she had while in the care of the Irish health-care system. It is clear that her life could have been saved had the medical profession had clearer instructions on how to act. Currently Doctors are having to interpret the legal position on an individual case-by-case basis and at their own risk.



It is proposed that the abortion legislation will provide a procedure whereby a suicidal woman can be legally given an abortion. This circumstance may occur for example where a woman or teenager is raped and becomes pregnant. The rebel Fine Gael T.D’s are concerned that this provision may be abused and lead to a situation of ‘abortion on demand’.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has so far ruled out a ‘free vote’ on the issue, whereby Party members would not be obliged to vote for the legislation with the possibility of being expelled from the Party if they did not. Fianna Fail may allow their own members to have a free vote which would certainly cause problems for Fine Gael if they did not follow suit. The Labour Party, Sinn Fein and most Independents will vote in favour of the measures so it seems that the new legislation is very likely to be passed and become law.

The difficulty for Fine Gael is just how much damage it will inflict on itself over this, perhaps the most divisive of all social issues.

by Michael Green
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Rip-Off-Ireland Shedding Its Expensive Image

The perception that Ireland had become a very expensive country – a rip-off Republic – emerged during the Celtic Tiger boom era of the 1990s and early part of the current century.


Photo From Free Public Domain Photographs

With near full employment (only 4% unemployment at the height of the prosperity – now unemployment is over 14%), staff could afford to pick and choose their jobs, pushing up prices, offering poor value, inflating business costs.

How things have changed. With the Tiger slain the economic crisis that nearly sank the country in 2008 and 2009 has seen earnings plummet, taxes spiral upwards while employment opportunities have disappeared. The result for the Tourist Sector of the Irish Economy has been predictable. Widescale closures of Hotels and Golf Courses throughout the country while the devastating reduction in the standard of living for employees has meant that jobs have become cherished, meaning better customer service and value.

A 2009 Bord Failte survey of visitors to Ireland revealed that as many as 41% of Tourists felt that holidaying in Ireland was too expensive. The most recent survey has seen this figure plummet to 17%.

So what is happening?

Well the first thing that can be said is that with the devastation in the Hotel sector those who remain standing are having to offer ever more enticing deals and room rates to their visitors. Where this has resulted in more people through the Hotel lobby the staff in the hotels are now required to offer better service, and cheaper too.

An increase in advertising by the Irish Tourist agencies with promotions such as ‘The Gathering’ have also helped to drive more visitors into Ireland, whose Dollars and Pounds are going further, a lot further than before. The Currency Exchange rate with the US Dollar has helped too. The Greenback has recovered from the 1.60 ceiling it nearly shattered last year to the 1.30 level it occupies today. It is clearly more affordable and a better overall experience to visit Ireland during its financial humbling.

Visitors from America seem to agree. The Bord Failte survey cited over 50% of visitors from the US as indicating that their visit ‘exceeded their expectations’.

Nothing like a bit of austerity to focus the minds of business owners and staff alike!

by Michael Green
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Gay Marriage Referendum Recommended For Ireland

The ‘Convention on the Constitution’ Committee that is meeting to recommend changes to the Irish Constitution has voted in favour of legalizing Gay Marriage in Ireland.



The Committee is comprised of 66 members of the Irish public, who were chosen by random, with 33 politicians from the various political parties and a chairman making up the 100 strong group. The Committee voted by a margin of 79 to 19 in favour of recommending the Constitution be changed to allow Gay Marriage. The Government is now obliged to have a Parliamentary debate on the subject within four months and to then set out a timescale for a Referendum.

The timing of this decision will certainly cause problems for Fine Gael. The main Party in Government is regarded as being more conservative than their rivals Fianna Fail and certainly more conservative than the left-wing Labour Party who are in Government coalition with Fine Gael. They are now faced with being perceived as the Party that quickly brought both the abortion issue and the Gay Marriage issue to the Irish public, many of whom would prefer to just leave these issues alone.

The decision to legislate for the X-Case on foot of the tragic death of Savita Halapanavar has put the abortion issue front and centre. Not all Fine Gael T.D’s (members of parliament) are at all happy with the proposed abortion legislation with many set to oppose the provision allowing for abortion in Ireland where there is a risk of suicide by the person seeking the abortion. Many Fine Gael T.D’s are concerned that this will amount to ‘abortion on demand’ and are not assuaged by the assurances that any such provision would be strictly policed.

By also putting the question of Gay Marriage to the Irish people there is a fear within Fine Gael that the Party may be seen to be acting too radically or liberally, and too quickly. Of course asking the question about Gay Marriage of the Irish citizenry does not automatically mean the Referendum will be passed. The Irish public has in the past demonstrated itself to be liberal in the opinion polls and conservative at the ballot box.

An example of his occurred in the 1995 Referendum to allow Divorce in Ireland. The measure was enacted by a margin of 50.28% to 49.73%, and this despite the fact that it looked as if the measure would easily pass in the opinion polls prior to the actual vote. A previous Referendum on the same subject in 1986 was rejected by the Irish people by 63% to 37%, thus preventing the introduction of divorce in the country and again when opinion polls indicated that the Referendum would be easily passed. (note 1)

Consequently those who are in favour of Gay Marriage in Ireland will certainly not be taking the result of any future Referendum for granted.

The Local and European elections that are due to be held in 2014 also complicate the matter for Fine Gael. They will certainly not want these mid-term elections to become a de-facto vote on their decision to hold a Referendum on Gay Marriage. They have enough to be concerned about with Fianna Fail surging in the opinion polls and their austerity policies attracting ever-increasing criticism.



The battle-lines are being drawn up already with the Labour Party delighted to have a policy that they can promote as one of their own. Party Leader Eamon Gilmore:

I believe myself that same-sex couples have the right to marry, I’m glad the Constitutional Convention has recommended that

It is possible that Fine Gael may delay any actual Referendum until the next term of Government, making it a General Election issue or they could reject the recommendation altogether which, for a somewhat conservative Party would be quite a radical move.

note 1: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1277&context=djcil

by Michael Green
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UNICEF Ranks Ireland Tenth Best For Kids

A report by UNICEF has provided mixed news for Irish parents with its findings ranging from very good to seriously bad. The report listed an average rank in the four elements of child well-being: material well-being, health, education, and behaviours and risks.


The report examined data from 2001 to 2010 for 29 developed OECD countries and ranked The Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Sweden at the top of the list with the UK in 16th place and the US in 21st place. The listing of Ireland in 10th place is relatively good but does however mask some shortcomings in the Irish treatment of its younger citizens.

Ireland ranked tenth overall with the report finding:

  • The Irish Child poverty rate of 8.5% is below the OECD average
  • Alcohol use among 11 to 15 year old children sees Ireland in 14th place with the US in 1st place (least number of children who reported being drunk at least twice) and the UK in 23rd place. Cannabis use by the same age group saw Ireland in 13th place, the UK in 21st place and the US in 25th place.
  • There has been a large decline in child and teenage smoking with Ireland ranked in 6th place, the US in 4th place and the UK in 7th place.
  • Ireland ranks 20th in number of births to teenage girls (15 to 19 years) with the UK in 27th place and the US in 29th place (most births)
  • The number of children overweight is increasing and Ireland is behind the UK, Germany and France in this regard. 15% are rated as overweight using the BMI scale. In the UK the rate is 12% while in the US it is 28%
  • Ireland has the highest rate of child exercise with the US in 2nd place and the UK tenth place.
  • In the 15 to 19 year old bracket Ireland is at the bottom of the list with regard to unemployment (includes not being in school or training)
  • Participation in third level education (15 to 19 years old) sees Ireland in third place (92% participation) with the US in 25th place (82%), and the UK in 29th (73%).
  • In terms of health and safety Ireland ranked 15th of the 29 countries.
  • In education terms Ireland ranked 17th
  • In housing and environment Ireland ranked 2nd
  • Homicide rates in the 29 countries sees the US in 27th place with just under 5 deaths per 100,000 citizens. Ireland is in 24th place (just over 2 deaths per 100,000 citizens) and the UK in 14th place.

The full report can be accessed here:
http://www.unicef-irc.org/Report-Card-11/

by Michael Green
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Rebellion in Labour Party Might Suit Fine Gael

The Irish Government Coalition of Fine Gael and the Labour Party looks very unlikely to run its full term despite the insistence of the two Party leaders.



Rarely has a Political Party leader looked in so much peril of removal as does Eamon Gilmore at this moment. To the despair of his Labour Party colleagues it is their Party who are taking the lions’s share of the blame for the never-ending austerity measures that the current Government is imposing.

Never mind the fact that the policies now being implemented were first started by the previous Fianna Fail administration. Never mind the fact that Fine Gael is the largest Party in Dail Eireann (Irish Parliament) and should shoulder most of the blame. The electorate has focused most of its ire on the Labour Party who seem to have abandoned just about every one of the core values for which it once stood.

It must seem amazing to Fianna Fail supporters and Fine Gael supporters alike that the Labour Party, that which is supposed to represent the interests of the working classes and unemployed, the poorest and the down-trodden, could be part of a Government that has introduced such savage and wide-ranging cuts in public services and incredible increases in taxation.

That the Labour Party supports the introduction of a Property Tax will probably be the final nail in its coffin. Of course both Fine Gael and Labour claim that they have no choice with the Property Tax and that they must introduce the tax as part of the EU/IMF/ECB loans to keep the country going. If that does not work then they will point to Fianna Fail and blame them for all of the austerity being foisted on the hapless Irish public.

This tactic worked for a while but has now worn very thin. Fianna Fail has bounced back in the polls while the Labour Party has plunged downwards. The Party has now lost 5 T.D.’s (members of the Irish parliament), all of whom have left in disgust at the direction the Party is heading. MEP (Member of the European Parliament) Nessa Childers is the latest member to resign from Labour’s Parliamentary Party. The Labour Party candidate in the recent Meath by-election did not get even enough votes to secure the return of his election deposit! There is a public perception that the Labour Party leadership has sold out and the Party seems set to implode with rebellious factions fighting each other.

But does this suit Fine Gael?



The Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has repeated his assertion that there will be no renegotiation of the ‘Programme for Government’ and that there will be no substantial reshuffle of his Cabinet. He is basically giving Labour no wriggle room whatsoever at precisely the moment when they are taking the flak for the severe policies the Fine Gael Government are implementing. That is pretty useful political cover!

If Labour left Government, as they must surely do in advance of any General Election, then Fine Gael would still have enough support to carry on, and, even if it did not, it could cut the smaller Party loose while attacking the policies of Fianna Fail and then the policies of their previous coalition partners.

A Fine Gael unencumbered and untainted by a link to a faltering Labour Party would certainly look more attractive to the Irish electorate than the current coalition Government does. Fine Gael will find a way to ditch Labour unless, as seems likely, Labour does it to itself.

The Labour Party is heading towards utter decimation.

by Michael Green
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Milo O’Shea: More than just the ‘Irishman with the Eyebrows’

Milo O’Shea: More than just the ‘Irishman with the Eyebrows’

The famed Irish actor Milo O’Shea has died. He was a renowned performer and had a marvellous career on both stage and screen.



Born in Dublin in 1926 his parents were both entertainers, his father a professional Singer and his mother a Harpist and Ballet Dancer. His earliest role was in a radio production of ‘Oliver Twist’ when he was just ten years old. Encouraged by his parents he pursued his dream of being an actor and left for America. Like so many aspiring actors his ‘day-job’ was a lot less glamorous than his acting turns. He worked as an Elevator operator in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City before returning to Ireland where he found fame with his performance in the 1967 film ‘Ulysses’, based on the notoriously difficult book by James Joyce. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times wrote:

Milo O’Shea is perfect as a fortyish, black-haired Bloom, bright-eyed when fun and lust are rising, flaccid and pathetic when rebuffed

His first of two ‘Tony’ nominations was for appearing opposite Eli Wallach in the 1968 stage production of ‘Staircase’ in which the two leads portrayed a gay couple living together in what is regarded as one of the breakthrough roles depicting homosexuality on Broadway.

On the silver screen he starred in Franco Zeffirelli’s renowned production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and as the mad scientist Durand Durand in the film ‘Barbarella’ with Jane Fonda. International pop band ‘Duran Duran’ took their name from the character so famously played by Milo O’Shea.

His second Tony nomination was in 1981 for his role as the Mercedes-driving priest in ‘Mass Appeal’ and was followed in 1981 by a most memorable performance as the biased judge sparring with Paul Newman in the Sidney Lumet production of ‘The Verdict’.

He regularly appeared in Movies including ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’ and ‘The Playboys’ while on television his performances included the TV series ‘Murder in the Heartland’ as well turns on ‘The West Wing’, ‘Cheers’, ‘The Golden Girls’ and ‘Frasier’.

He will be remembered for the huge variety of roles that his versatility as an actor allowed him to carry off with such ease. From comedy to serious courtroom drama to bar-room comedy his range was huge. Survived by his wife, Kitty Sullivan, his sons, Colm and Steven, and three grandchildren, he will be missed.

Milo O’Shea in his comic role in the TV Series ‘Cheers’:

by Michael Green
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Irish Football Team Suffer World Cup Setback

The prospect of the Irish football team lining out in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup hangs in the balance. A fine battling performance in Sweden to gain an unexpected 0-0 draw and a vital qualifying point was followed up by a 2-2 draw with Austria in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.



It could have been so different. The young Irish team were a goal down within 11 minutes after a defensive mistake let in the Austrians who had dominated the early part of the game. Martin Harnik poked home the opening goal past the despairing dive of Irish keeper David Forde. The Irish team dug in and with the excellent Shane Long leading the attack got a lifeline with a penalty after an Austrian defender rashly chopped down Shane Long on the edge of the penalty box. A definite penalty that was expertly converted by Jonathan Walters. Long was unlucky not to score shortly after when his beautiful back-heel came back of the post. The Irish were in the ascendancy with the stadium erupting when Walters scored his second goal of the night, a header from a corner kick and right on the stroke of half-time.

The Austrians regrouped and started to dominate the game again in the second half. Ireland still threatened and might have had a third goal when the Austrian goalkeeper Heinza Lindner expertly prevented an own-goal from an Irish corner. Increasingly the Austrians gained the upper hand and it was with a sense of inevitability that they snatched a deserved equalizer deep into added time. Just seconds remained on the clock but the three points had been converted into just one with new questions abounding about the tactics employed by the Irish manager Giovanni Trapattoni.



No-one doubts the ‘gameness’ of these Irish lads and they are not without genuine footballing quality but against Austria they were let down by their Manager’s unwillingness to believe that they could do more than just cling on and defend their goal advantage. With the Austrians dominating it became clear that the Irish team needed midfield reinforcements while the substitution of Shane Long was baffling to say the least.

It is not over yet and if the Irish can produce an away performance against Austria and turn over the Swedes in Dublin then they may yet claim second place in the group and a play-off place.

At the moment this looks like a very tall order.

Group C – Current Standing
Germany - Played: 6 – Points: 16
Austria - Played: 5 – Points: 8
Sweden - Played: 4 – Points: 8
Ireland - Played: 5 – Points: 8

Lose Your Cable TV If You Want a Mortgage Write-Down

The issue of mortgage write-downs or ‘debt forgiveness’ has been a very thorny one in Ireland ever since the Irish banks effectively collapsed and were taken into state ownership. Thousands of home-owners lost their jobs at about the same time as the value of their property plunged. They found themselves in negative equity, preventing them from selling their now-devalued property and trapping them in apartment blocks and rural housing estates in a vicious circle that is hard to escape.

The realization that a certain level of mortgage write-downs would have to be granted was greeted with a mixture of despair by those who actually managed somehow to pay their mortgage and with an opportunistic ‘nod and a wink’ by those who are trying to ‘game the system’. There is anecdotal evidence that a certain number of home-owners are deliberately not paying their mortgage in anticipation of a deal being struck in the future. This is preventing write-downs being offered to the most deserving of cases, stalling the property market, trapping people in homes they cannot afford.

It is estimated that as many as 100,000 Irish mortgages are now in arrears of at least three months. It is inevitable that deals will have to be done with some if not many of these cases. The banks are unsurprisingly being very cagey. Where home-owners in arrears present themselves to the bank they are being offered longer terms, mortgage holidays, interest-only payments, split mortgages, etc., in an effort to give them some breathing space. For some, even these measures will not be enough.

The new Personal Insolvency Service has laid out a number of concessions that they expect from those desperate for a deal including:

* getting rid of a second car and even trading down to a lesser model of car
* an end to taking foreign holidays
* removal of certain Cable TV services including sports and movies packages
* removal of children from private schools
* ending of private health insurance
* any other obvious ‘unnecessary’ expense

The Personal Insolvency Service is part of the Government’s overhaul of the outdated bankruptcy laws in Ireland. Irish banks are expected to use the new rules and restrictions laid out by the Service in dealing with people seeking mortgage write-downs.

It is likely that these new measures may be tested in the Courts. The spectre of desperate families choosing between private education for their children and private health insurance over keeping their family in their home is likely to be loom large in the national consciousness and soon.

It is a battle that will likely get ever more bitter as the stark reality of a bank-imposed ‘austerity lifestyle’ hits home.

by Michael Green
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Saint Patrick’s Day Traditions

The Wearing of the Green

The tradition of wearing Shamrock to celebrate Saint Patrick seems to date from the seventeenth or eighteenth century. This was a very turbulent time in Irish history. The suppression of the Gaelic way of life by the ruling British invaders resulted in many aspects of the Catholic religion in Ireland being forced underground. Strict laws were enforced which prevented the Catholic population from attending schools so ‘hedge-schools’ were operated in secret.

Shamrocks - one of the symbols of Ireland

These were schools run outdoors in secluded places (sometimes literally ‘under a hedge!). The teaching of religion was also forbidden so it is only to be expected that teachers would use naturally available resources to inform their pupils. Thus the Shamrock plant was used to illustrate the message of the Christian Holy Trinity.

Saint Patrick was credited with using the Shamrock in such a manner so the wearing of the Shamrock by the oppressed Catholic population became a means of demonstrating their defiance to the ruling British class. It also imbued a sense of kinship among the native Gaelic people, differentiating them from their oppressors.

Wearing a clump of Shamrock is now a firmly established tradition throughout the world to celebrate not just Saint Patrick but Ireland itself. The Shamrock symbol is widely used by businesses seeking to associate with Ireland and, along with the Harp, is perhaps the single most recognisable symbol of Ireland. It is a shame though that the Shamrock is not a blue plant as the color originally associated with Saint Patrick was blue!

Saint Patricks’s Day Parade

Saint Patrick’s Day is unique in that it is celebrated worldwide. It is most unusual that a country has such an international celebration and is really evidence of the generational effects of emigration that has afflicted Ireland for centuries. After the 1845 to 1849 Irish Famine emigration soared with as many as a million native Irish leaving their homes in the decades after the famine to settle in places like Boston, New York, Newfoundland, Perth, Sydney and beyond. The US Census Bureau now reports that 34 Million US Citizens claim Irish descent. Most emigrants like to commemorate their heritage and thus the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade came into being.

Saint Patrick's Day Parade, New York, 1909

The earliest record of a Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was in the year 1762 when Irish soldiers serving in the British Army held a Parade in New York City. Earlier records suggest that the day was celebrated by the Irish in Ireland as early as the ninth and tenth centuries.

Again, this was a very difficult time in Irish history with Viking raiders terrorizing the native Gaelic population. It is thus no surprise then that in times of strife the local population would turn to religion and to a commemoration of their own heritage and individuality – a practice that has been repeated by populations of troubled places since the dawn of time. The New York Parade is now the longest running civilian Parade in the world with as many as three Million spectators watching the Parade of over 150,000 participants.

Saint Patrick's Day Parade, Dublin

The first official Parade in Ireland was in 1931. The 1901 law that copper-fastened March 17th as an Irish national holiday was later amended to insist that public houses close down on the day. This restriction was later lifted in the 1970′s. In the mid 1990′s the Irish Government really started to promote the event when it changed from a single day’s Parade into a 5-day festival attracting as many as a million visitors into the country. Parades are now held in just about every major city in the world with the biggest in several US cities reaching epic proportions.

Chicago River on Saint Patrick's Day

Greening of Rivers and Buildings

The use of the color green reached new heights (or plunged new depths!) when in 1962 the city of Chicago decided to dye part of the Chicago River green. Since then the campaign to have just about every possible landmark turned green for the day has taken off in earnest and in recent years has included the Irish Parliament building, the Sydney Opera House, the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls and even the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt!

A Pint of Plain

The Irish association with drinking is well known and not always positive. Fortunately there are plenty of examples of the appropriate use of alcohol and Saint Patrick’s Day is one of them. It is a widely held tradition in Ireland that beer or whiskey can be taken on Saint Patrick’s Day although native Irish pub-goers can only look on aghast as visitors top the heads of their creamy pint of Guinness with a green Shamrock. Sacrilege! It is estimated that as many as 13 Million pints of Guinness are consumed on Saint Patrick’s Day, up from the usual 5.5 Million per day!

Saint Patrick's Day Girl

Dressing Up

The tradition of dressing up in Irish outfits is not just confined to participants in Parades. Jovial creatures of Irish origin the world over use the opportunity of Saint Patrick’s Day to dress up as Leprechaun or even as Saint Patrick himself. Kids love to wear the big green, white and orange hats and receive sweets thrown to them by similarly clad operators of the various Parade floats.

The Saint Patrick’s Day Dinner

Corned beef and cabbage is as traditional and Irish meal as you will ever find and it is often hauled out for Saint Patrick’s Day. Traditional Irish music in the background and a family gathering are other Irish Saint Patrick’s Day traditions that have been going on for centuries.

by Michael Green
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