Thursday 17 March 2016

St. Patrick’s Day: Mythical Holiday vs. Modern Reality

Ireland, St. Patrick's Day, censorship, internet access, SumRando Cybersecurity, VPN, Secure Messenger
[Source: Andreas F. Borchert]
Americans of all backgrounds eagerly anticipate March 17 each year as an opportunity to wear green, eat corned beef and cabbage, drink beer and bring out the ‘Irish’ in everyone. St. Patrick’s Day, once a holiday to celebrate the homeland for 19th century Irish immigrants, has grown so ubiquitously popular that even Ireland’s politicians head stateside to participate in American parade festivities.

So, what are the Irish in Ireland up to this St. Paddy’s day?

Some will be celebrating, of course, but others may simply be looking ahead to March 27, the centennial of Ireland’s 1916 uprising. 100 years prior, Irish nationalists revolted against their British government by seizing buildings throughout Dublin and declaring Ireland an independent republic; the fighting that followed left nearly 500 nationalists dead and destroyed much of Dublin. Although the rebellion was all but over in a matter of days, the iron fist used by the British to quell the revolt would eventually come to fuel the resentment necessary to create an independent Irish state in 1949.

Ireland today is certainly not the place it was a century ago, but that is not to say life is all 4-leaf clovers and pots of gold at the end of rainbows. Recently:

  • There has been much criticism over a complete lack of adequate Internet access in much of rural Ireland:  “It is unacceptable for those in rural Ireland to be consigned to battle with poor connectivity. Over and over again we hear of the problems a lack of broadband is causing in rural areas. It is adding to the isolation many in rural Ireland feel—and is contributing to the demise of local communities,” argued Seamus Sherlock of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association. Fortunately, change is coming: telecoms operator Eir has promised to connect 100,000 residences by 2017 and the government itself has developed a National Broadband Plan to connect 750,000 residences by 2020.

  • Ireland’s Censorship of Publications Board opted to ban a book for the first time in 18 years. “The collective view of the board was that it was a vile publication as it contained graphic descriptions of the rape of a minor,” reported board chairman Shane McCarthy. The initial ban will last for 12 years and prohibit the sale or distribution of the book.

  • No longer a city in shambles, Dublin today is better known as the Silicon Docks, a global tech hub that boasts Facebook’s international operations. The accounts of 83% of all Facebook users (from everywhere but the United States) are managed in Ireland and, increasingly, subject to Irish law: two weeks ago, a German court overturned a decision to allow fake names on Facebook because, although such an act would be protected by German law, Facebook’s real name policy is not in violation of Irish law. The case stems from Facebook’s decision to block the account of a German woman for using a fake name and then unilaterally reinstating it under her actual name.  

  • A banner hung in commemoration of the 1916 uprising found itself under (social media) attack. Tweets of protest over the decision to include portraits of historical figures not involved in the uprising include, “Tourists will be torturing the poor guides with ‘so, where did these guys fight?’” and “Sickened that the official centenary celebration has managed to be more absurd than our 1916 [spoof] documentary.”

Whether or not you choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today, remember that behind this larger-than-life holiday is a people whose struggles—past and present—are very much alive, real and perhaps more similar to your own than you ever imagined.

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