Dearth of Gaelic Culture in Galway's St. Patrick's Day Parade

Copy of my letter that was printed in the Galway Independent newspaper

This year's St Patrick's Day Parade was a great success at many different levels. The welcome return of the school bands, the pageantry, the huge friendly crowds and, of course, the fine weather made for an enjoyable afternoon.

So well done to the organisers!
But there was a surprising dearth of traditional Irish music, dance and drama in the event that was commented on by locals and tourists alike. Visitors were treated to a wonderful eclectic mix of African singers, Chinese dancers, Scottish pipers, American cops, Indian fashion, Hare Krishna chants and smiling flag wavers from new Christian groups that reached a finale in a fine display of Breton folk music in front of the official review stand.

But, in a Galway city/county that prides itself on being the cultural capital of Ireland, that is promoted as the custodian of so many aspects of Gaelic culture and is the birthplace of the sean-nos dancing Mulkerrin Brothers who won the 'All-Ireland Talent Competition' only two days previously, there is something seriously wrong when Gaelic culture finds so little expression in our annual national parade.

Promoting our membership of the 'Global Village' and the ethnic traditions of recent arrivals from other lands should, of course, be encouraged, commended and continued. But it would be wrong in the process to sideline a Gaelic culture that has for millennia been that of the majority of the Irish people.

The world has an appetite for traditional Irish Celtic music, drama and dance that has only increased over the last few decades. We in Galway should not ignore this and disappoint those who travel from distant parts to take part in what they expect to be a celebration of Ireland’s heritageHaving a St Patrick's Day Parade without this cultural input is akin to the Rio de Janeiro Carnival without its Samba Schools. For centuries the parade was nurtured by our Irish diaspora in order to keep the national identity alive in a time when the indigenous population was threatened by colonisation, war, oppression, famine and poverty. But participation from other ethnic groups with proud heritages is nothing new.

For instance, many Indians marched in the 1920 New York Parade that was reviewed by Eamon DeValera, some carrying large banners emblazoned with messages such as '315,000,000 of India with Ireland to the Last' and 'President De Valera's Message to India: Our cause is a common cause.'

I have sent a letter on this issue to the Mayor and Manager of Galway City. I also requested them to consider henceforth sending invitations to representatives of local schools, community and voluntary groups to fill the many empty seats noticeable in this year’s Review Stand as well as to lobby for the closure of the off-licences on 17 March. The public displays of urination, vomiting and verbal harassment, particularly from under-age drinkers on our streets and in our parks after the parade last Tuesday, was a frightening experience for families and others endeavouring to enjoy our national holiday.

The Renewed Enslavment of Women

Today on International Women's Day, it is sad to reflect on how little progress has been made on women's right.
If treatment of women was the litmus test of civilisation, then most countries would be judged barbaric.
Across the world, women are still denied political and economic status equal to that of men even though they do must of the work. On a domestic level, the cooking of food, the cleaning of a home, the nurturing and education of children, the paying of household bills, the provision of male entertainment and the sourcing/manufacturing of clothing is still the prerogative of the female.
But in the increasingly fundamentalist societies of Islamic Asia and Africa such as Sudan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Pakistan and Afghanistan the re-appearance of Sharia Law has meant that women are experiencing renewed oppression, being denied basic human rights such as education, travel and free association. Women are now being purged from hospitals, offices and schools in countries such as Iraq where until recently they were well represented. Males are using them the scapegoat for the ills of society as exemplified by the upsurge in so-called 'Honour-Killing', a horrible symbol of male dominance. For a female to walk the street with her hair uncovered or unaccompanied by a male relative now runs the risk of death.
Though it has to be said that many courageous women are fighting against this renewed onslaught by religious chauvinism. In Iran, the women's movement is probably the largest mass movement of opposition in the country. Likewise in Pakistan, professional women are leading the battle against government proposals to accept Sharia Law in the border tribal areas.
In the process they are becoming invisible beings, faceless, with no identity forced to obey all the whims of their male masters.
In areas of the world where Aids is rife, sex with a female virgin is often viewed as a cure for the disease.

But in the so-called developed world, the situation is some instances is even worse with females experiencing unprecedented exploitation and slavery.
There is an explosion in exploitative pornography fueled by the Internet, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ease in restrictions travelling between European countries.
Over the last two decades, Western Europe, North America and Turkey are the main destination for millions of young women from Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa who have been kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured, drugged and gang-raped often bey their own male compatriots before being sold and enslaved as prostitutes to led a life of servitude servicing the sexual desires of mainly rich white men. Thousands of these torture camps dot the landscapes of Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy and the USA.
Governments do little to stem the flow or punish the pimps and the human traffickers.
The working life of a prostitute is light years away from the romantic image portrayed by Julia Roberts in 'Pretty Women'.

In Ireland, in spite of the fact that our President and Deputy Prime Minister have been females for decades, few women hold positions of power in the business and academic boardrooms.
Galway University where I work is often considered to be a vanguard in liberal values. However only 6% of professors are female which is the lowest representation in the Irish third level sector.
Yet it was not always like this. I am proud to state that in ancient Celtic Ireland women were often leaders and well represented in sectors that were considered male only preserves in other societies. Click here to read my previous article on 'St. Brigit and the Remarkable Power of Irish Celtic Women.