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ND celebrates Irish heritage

Katie McCarty | Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Irish identity of Notre Dame inspires campus-wide St. Patrick’s Day festivities each year, and preparations are already underway to pay tribute to the school’s cultural connections March 17.

In commemoration of the holiday, the Department of Irish Language and the Institute of Irish of Studies are sponsoring a lecture about the history of St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland and North America today at 2 p.m. in Hayes-Healy Hall.

Irish Language and Literature professor Brian O’Conchubhair said American St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are different from traditional Irish ones. The festivities in Ireland were expanded after the Celtic Tiger, a period of great economic growth in Ireland in the late 1990s, he said.

“It used to be the case that the American celebrations were much larger events than the typical Mass, parade, dinner in Ireland, but that changed during the Celtic Tiger,” O’Conchubhair said.  “After the Celtic Tiger, St. Patrick’s Day became a weeklong festival aimed at celebrating Irish culture and attracting visitors to Ireland.
“It is also Irish-language week where everyone is encouraged to use as much Irish as possible in daily transactions.”

Over the years, the American celebration of St. Patrick’s Day has become less about the Irish culture and more about celebrating all cultures, O’Conchubhair said.
“Now it is as much a multicultural, multiracial celebration of Americanism,” he said. “Historically, it [was] celebrated as a triumph of Irish into American culture, and now that triumph narrative has been adopted by other different ethnic groups.”

Together with the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies, the Department of Irish Language and Literature helps tie the University to its Irish identity, O’Conchubhair said.

“Just look at the interest in the ND-Navy game in Dublin last September and captured in [the] coffee-table book ‘Notre Dame’s Happy Returns: Dublin, the Experience, the Game,'” O’Conchubhair said. “[Notre Dame] is in many ways the pulse of Irish America.”