Belfast Telegraph

Time to make St Patrick's Day official public holiday

By Liam Clarke

Could this be the moment to revive Ian Paisley's suggestion that St Patrick's Day be declared an official public holiday?

We are already halfway there; many places close and the political classes on both sides of the border decamp to the US for the weekend.

Besides, there is no denying that Patrick is a hero for our times. Our patron saint was an immigrant, brought here by force by people traffickers, and a member of a derided religious minority.

He was mugged, beaten and robbed when he returned voluntarily.

He always felt like a foreigner, lamenting that his words had to be translated and his education was inadequate.

Loyalists may like to note he lit an illegal bonfire, the Paschal fire on the Hill of Slane, in defiance of the established authority of his day. Patrick can be seen as a proto-Prod, whose Celtic church was in schism and who has never been canonised by Rome.

Yet he was a bishop, founding monasteries and convents which drifted seamlessly into the orbit of the Catholic Church.

He also created a global brand for Ireland, which is still celebrated in every continent 1,500 years after his death.

There is just one discordant note: he preached chastity and sobriety, so he might be surprised to see how his feast day is celebrated in the Holylands.

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