HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU CAME TO THE U.S.?
I came to America when I was 18. I was only supposed to stay for the summer. My mum bought me a ticket because she hated my biker boyfriend.
AS A MOM I CAN RELATE. SO WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO STAY AND MAKE A LIFE HERE INSTEAD OF RETURNING TO IRELAND?
I left school at 16 and went to college in Belfast. When I came here in 1986, the employment rate in Ireland was sky-high. It was easy to get work here. I made new friends. I loved that it didn’t rain every day and of course, I was getting away from ‘The Troubles’.
WHEN YOU SAY “THE TROUBLES” YOU ARE REFERRING TO THE NAME COMMONLY ASSOCIATED WITH THE ONGOING POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS FIGHTING IN NORTHERN IRELAND?
I grew up in Northern Ireland. I have been kicked out of stores because of bomb scares and been witness to two bombs in my town. It was normal to see the British soldiers with their guns all over town and to be stopped and searched. I had to pretend friends were not Protestants so they wouldn’t get beat up. There were certain parts of town we couldn’t go to or certain pubs we couldn’t go in. In 1998, shortly after my wedding, my home town of Omagh had one of the worst bombs in the history of The Troubles. 31 people were killed. I’m including my friend, her unborn 8 month old twins, her mum and two-year old daughter.
HARD TO EVEN IMAGINE. I THINK AMERICANS SOMETIMES THINK OF BEING IRISH AS BEING ONE BIG PARTY. YOU KNOW, THE STEREOTYPE OF THE DRUNKEN IRISH PERSON…ANY STEREOTYPES THAT EXIST IN IRELAND OF AMERICANS?
Most Irish people I know, including myself, can’t stand when someone with an American accent says ” I’m Irish too!”… when I ask where they are from, they have no idea where their great grandparents came from! My personal pet peeve is when someone hears my accent and automatically assumes I’m a Catholic who supports the IRA ( or worse, asks if I’m Catholic or Protestant…something you would NEVER do in Ireland). Americans assume we all support the IRA. After 9-11, I would compare the IRA to those terrorists and people started getting the idea.
OBVIOUSLY ST. PADDY’S DAY IS BIG HERE. IS IT AS BIG OF A DEAL IN IRELAND? ARE THERE DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY IT’S CELEBRATED?
St. Paddy’s Day is huge here! At home it’s more of a holy day. The schools and shops were closed and up until the 1970’s, so were the pubs. We wore a bunch of shamrocks and went to mass, that was it. It was also a day that we could break lent. All the kids would eat sweets (candy) and all the adults would drink.
HERE WE DO ALL THE GIMMICKY STUFF, THE ERIN EXPRESS AND PUB CRAWLS AND ALL OF THAT. IS IT LIKE THAT OVER THERE?
I haven’t been home for St. Patrick’s Day for years but I hear it’s changed. A lot of tourists are going there and Ireland has succumbed to the hype for them. Parades and green beer, just like America. When the Irish first came to America, they were not welcomed. ” No Irish Need Apply” signs everywhere. As the years went on and things got better, it was a huge deal to be allowed to celebrate their heritage. There are so many Irish Americans now. I think that’s why they made such a huge deal out of the parades. They have parades and pub crawls in Ireland now but there never was anything like that when I was growing up.
I’M ITALIAN, AND IN MY HEAD I THINK OF KIDS IN ITALY SITTING AT THE TABLE WITH THEIR PARENTS DRINKING WINE FOR DINNER AT 13, 14 YEARS OLD. I THINK OF PEOPLE SITTING IN THE PUB WITH A PINT IN IRELAND DOING THE SAME. WHAT IS THE LEGAL DRINKING AGE IN IRELAND? IS IT WELL OBSERVED?
The drinking age in Ireland is 18. Growing up, I was in the pub at 16. They never carded back then. I believe they card now but the kids all have fake IDs. It blows my mind when I go home and see all the kids in the pubs. That’s what they are, kids. Drunk kids.
We drank as kids, grew up in pubs and it’s still the same. Young kids who drink a lot! Drinking is a hobby, a pastime. It’s almost expected. It doesn’t rain in the pubs. Growing up, we didn’t have a lot to do. Kids started bands, went roller skating and got drunk. My American husband is always amazed at how many young people are stumbling, totally wasted around Omagh at the end of a night out. There are definitely Irish people don’t drink. I don’t know any, but I’m sure there are some!
Now for a public service announcement….. NEVER call St. Patrick, St. Patty!
Patty is a girl’s name!!! Happy St. Paddy’s Day!