Chicago goes green for St Patrick's Day

Meathwoman's Diary: Great to see the world green with envy

I was in New York for St Patrick's Day once. We arrived in the evening time so missed out on the main parade but the city that never sleeps wasn't going to retire early on what has become one of the country's greatest events in the calender year.

According to recent census data, over 30 million Americans claim Irish heritage, almost six times the current population of the Republic of Ireland.

The yanks now celebrate the life of the fifth-century missionary with parades, green dye and a raised pint of Guinness in one of the many Irish bars across the United States.

It's a rarity to meet an American who upon hearing you are from the emerald isle doesn't giddily exclaim they that they too have Irish heritage, however, the details of how the Gaelic blood in their lineage occurred it often quite sketchy.

But let’s not pick on the Americans, citizens of the world all over claim Irish citizenship, in spirit anyway, every March 17th.

It is hard to fathom how much a little country like ours has made such an impact in every corner on the world and It is not often you travel abroad and are not confronted with people keen to engage with your 'Irishness.'

On a trip to Morocco many years ago a local 'lucky, lucky' man selling questionable "designer" gear was successful in getting our attention when he asked if we were from Mullingar!! Before listing off an array of rural areas in Ireland, unlikely to be well known by a native North African man!

It is unsurprising that London grinds to a halt for the day that's dedicated to our national saint given the amount of Irish who left these shores for England to find work and a better quality of life during tough decades in their homeland.

Not to mention the sheer number of TV personalities of Irish heritage that dominate our TV screens. Terry Wogan, Graham Norton, Henry Kelly, Gloria Huniford ,Eamonn Andrews and now Ryan Tubridy is the latest public figure testing the water of the Thames, but let's not open that can of worms. In more recent times, there has been Laura Whitmore, Craig Doyle and Dermot O'Leary flying the Irish flag.

So why are we so revered around the world?

Sam Wollaston a TV critic with the Guardian was once quoted on the subject saying "It's probably down to all the old stereotypes that the Irish have poetry in their souls."

Perhaps it is to do with our imperial past and the legacy of our colonisation struggle that instinctively breeds empathy from other nations . Maybe it's simply the result of mass emigration that has left its shamrock shaped stamp throughout the world or perhaps the Guardian TV critic is right, we have poetry in our souls. Ireland's love affair with arts and culture tells its own story and how poignant is it that Cillian O'Connor wins an Academy Award for Best Actor, the first Irish born person to do so, just days before the world celebrates Ireland.

It has been said that in order for a saint to stay relative that each generation needs to engage with their story and traditions. With a whole world behind him, St Patrick can rest easy.