A Sober St. Patrick’s Day

Brian Conway, John Whelan and KT Sullivan will be among the performers at Sober St. Patrick's Day

By Ruth Riddick, Guest Blogger.
March 9, 2012

Remember the brouhaha last year when Mayor Bloomberg made his miscalculated joke about drunken Irish on St. Patrick’s Day? (Irishcentral.com broke what became an international story.) I was there, but I couldn’t find it in my heart to share in the outrage. Amid predictable tut-tutting about the stereotype, the underlying national trauma of addiction remained unaddressed. Who wants to confront the epidemic of Irish alcohol abuse and its enabling culture on both sides of the Atlantic?

From the perspective of a recovering alcoholic, I just want to run from St. Patrick’s Day, not to mention the streets dripping with green beer – and just who turned on that faucet, I wonder? So it was with relief that I recently learned of plans for a Sober St. Patrick celebration in New York City.

“We are not a glum lot,” say the organizers.

Really? Is it possible to have fun without alcohol?

For decades, everything fun for me involved drinking, and the people in my life liked to drink the way I did. As the saying goes, we had the craic (nothing to do with illegal substances!). When the drinking had to stop, this Irishwoman believed myself exiled to some purgatory where there wouldn’t be any more laughs. “There’ll be no jollification,” as the fella said.

Happily, I was misinformed.

“I really like the idea of having a special event on this holiday to celebrate our shared heritage in a safe and inclusive environment,” says Noel Kilkenny, Ireland’s Consul General in New York. With his ongoing support, the organizers hope to make this family-friendly party an annual event.

I couldn’t be happier that leadership in the recovery community is at last challenging one of the most pernicious images of Ireland. Congratulations to television executive William Spencer Reilly for making this new kind of party happen.

“Reclaiming the true spirit of the day is what this is all about,” says Mr. Reilly. “And, for those people NOT in recovery, our message isn’t that we are against drinking on St Patrick’s Day; it’s that we want this holiday to be more about enjoying the beauty of Irish culture.”

Details and tickets are available from the website www.soberstpatricksday.org/ The program will include performances by The John Whelan Band, fiddler Brian Conway, singer KT Sullivan and many more. Venue: Regis High School, 60 East 85th Street (Park & Madison), NYC. Time: 3-7 p.m.

Read more about The Irish and Drink

Dubliner Ruth Riddick’s third poetry collection, The Bodies Within, will be published this year.

3 Responses to “A Sober St. Patrick’s Day”

  1. I think this is long overdue!

  2. Jacqueline says:

    This is a super idea – let’s all leave the poison out of the pleasure!

  3. Sean Sheehan says:

    My grandfather never drank his brother died a drunk on the streets of Boston. My father was a maintainence alcholic most of his life, and my brother is an alchholic, I gave it up 28 years ago. Visiting Ireland a few years back, I was appaled at the numbers of young people spilling out of the bars at closing time during the workweek. Too much of life is lost to drink. I have come to think of it in my case as the “Irish Disease”.

Leave a Reply to Jacqueline


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