The clue is in my name, Patricia McLoughlin. Can’t get more Irish than that?
But I was named for a saint’s day I missed by two days. Having arrived on the 19th March I should really have been Josephine, actually putting in my first appearance on St Joseph’s day. No matter, the pull of the quasi-fatherland must have been strong, my older sister having already been baptised Kathleen.
I became Paddy at my English convent school .where they dished out little cardboard harps festooned with shamrock on March 17th each year, along with holy pictures of a chap in a bishop’s mitre with a staff, who they told us had cast snakes out of Ireland – this despite the fact that, apparently, post-glacial Ireland never had any serpents in the first place.
My grandfather, who died before I was born, came over from Dublin as a youngster and my only two trips to the Emerald Isle have been as a child to attend the wedding of an uncle who was marrying an Irishwoman and latterly to go to a rugby match.
Do I consider myself to be Irish because of these connections? No. I was born in England and I am English. Was I to claim my paternal grandfather’s nationality, I would also have to lay claim to that of my mother’s father and consider myself Welsh.
Forget the notion that to be Irish is somehow more romantic than to be English. The Irish are those born in Ireland, with Irish citizenship and an Irish passport. They perform strange dances to diddly-diddly music, drink Jameson whisky and have every right to feel aggrieved at the way they were treated by the English in the past.
They do not live in Dubai, New York or Malaga , frequenting Plastic Paddy bars and singing ‘Danny Boy’ off key or ‘If you ever go across the sea to Ireland’, which they probably never will.
But this week, or whenever Ireland win any sporting encounter, or when Boyzone numbers are replayed on Heart, millions of plastic Paddys will celebrate their patron saint.
Not me. I am perfectly happy to be English and live in West London and would go along with good old Ronan Keating in declaring, “I can’t deny what I believe. I can’t be what I’m not.” And I’m not Irish, even if my name is Paddy.