Today, I shall be celebrating my country’s national holiday, but not Saint Patrick. Just for the record, Saint Patrick was not some gentle, avuncular Saint Nicholas type figure. He was a colonialist, Christian supremacist, who wasn’t even Irish.
He wasn’t sent by Rome to convert the Irish since the job had already been done by Palladius. Most of them were quite happy with their old beliefs, thank you very much, and Rome was happy to leave it like that. Patrick though, went on a one man crusade to forcibly convert the non-Christian Irish, and was probably responsible for the mysterious mass ‘deaths’ of unarmed worshipers of Crom Cruagh.
It is quite possible the yarn he spun about being captured by Irish raiders and held captive as a slave for six years (before his extremely improbable escape) was complete fiction. He had a shady criminal past which possibly explained the need to disappear for six years.
He was accused by the Irish of extorting the inheritance of noblewomen who he then herded into convents (best place for women), and ‘converting’ noblemen with the inevitable kickback for the church of a portion of their wealth. In fact, we don’t know much about what Patrick really got up to, where he came from and what his agenda was. He made up all the stuff he’s famous for, like converting the chiefs with his shamrock and the holy trinity analogy. It never happened.
And don’t get me onto Leprechauns! With the dispossession of the Irish aristocracy by the seventeenth century, the suppression of the Irish language and the corruption of the mythology by the priests, the old heroes and historical figures were debased to mini figures of fun and ridicule. That Christian and English colonial heritage again.
At the end of a week in which the British government after a mere 47 years of cover-up (or investigation, depending on your view point), has announced that one (yes, just one) soldier is to be tried for his part in the Bloody Sunday massacre, that his name is to be kept secret, the British taxpayers are going to be paying all his legal costs and aid to himself and his family, I don’t feel much inclined to celebrate any more re-writes of history.
I shall be eating a festive meal, draining the local supermarket of its very meagre stock of Guinness and thinking about family and ancestors. Not leprechauns, and not Saint Patrick.