Activist countries

Middle Eastern countries celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

Traditionally a Catholic day of festivities, St. Patrick’s Day has become an occasion to celebrate Irish identity in diasporic communities around the world. This year, commemorations took place from Palestine to Dubai.

Irish folk legend Martin Hayes performed at Expo Dubai, while the last Kufiya factory in Palestine started producing the ‘Saoirse Kufiya’ [Getty]

As parades took place across the world yesterday to mark St. Patrick’s Day, countries in the Middle East celebrated Irish contributions to music, culture and resistance to British colonial rule.

The small Gaelic nation, which has a long history of colonial rule by the British Empire, shares many ties of solidarity with organizations in Palestine and among the Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation.

To mark the day, Herbawi – the last Palestinian producer of traditional Palestinian headscarves – has created a new design called “Saoirse Kufiya”, recalling decades of shared struggle and solidarity between the Irish and Palestinian people.

“To this day, the people of Ireland are Europe’s strongest defenders of the Palestinian right to freedom and self-determination…because the memory and consequences of colonization live in the marrow of every Irish bone! Herbawi said in a statement.

Meanwhile, at Expo Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Irish violinist and world-renowned music ambassador Martin Hayes performed alongside a host of musicians to a packed crowd of children and adults – including a large number of enthusiastically dancing Irish children.

In Turkey, Istanbul’s famous Irish pub held its annual festival to mark the occasion. The James Joyce Irish Pub, just off one of Istanbul’s most famous nightlife streets, offered live dancing, music, a huge selection of beers and plenty of traditional Irish food.

Saint Patrick, a Catholic born to immigrant parents from Italy, was captured and taken to Ireland as a slave in the fourth century AD

He is traditionally portrayed as the man responsible for chasing the “snake” of paganism out of Ireland – and spreading Catholicism across the Gaelic-speaking country – although historians now believe his role as a missionary is exaggerated.

In Ireland today, meanwhile, campaigners relaunched the Black Shamrock campaign on St Patrick’s Day, which mourns the lives lost as a result of Irish collaboration in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Irish state’s long tradition of military neutrality and careful diplomacy has been tested by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – as Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney made clear in the Irish parliament last week.

“We have chosen to take sides in this regard because we believe that Russian aggression is not only illegal. . . but it is also something that Ireland should morally take a stand on,” he told the Dáil Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Thursday.