So this is the story...
Patrick approached the High King's fort at Tara, where the Druids stood by the chair of the High Kind. And every fire in Ireland was quenched that night. Because there was a low that no fire whould burn on the eve of the festival of Bealtine, when the druids themselves lit a fire to their pagan gods.'
I remember the story of St Patrick from my first picture book, in which the green-robed bishop towered above the dark-faced druids with firelight behind him and the shamrock held aloft. Behind the druids the High King knelt by his carved throne. And behind the throne a man with a gold harp, with his head bowed, was holding the palms of his hands on the harpstrings to silence its pagan music, and accept the robust authority of a new regime.
At home in Ireland, faced with new evidence of the vicious criminality of the Catholic Church and the stranglehold that it's had on our State institutions, we'll be asked to celebrate that overt and dangerous identification of Church with State, and of Christianity with Irishness.
In The US, Irish-Americans in Boston have already seen their St Patrick's Day parade threatened by the pernicious homophobia of the Trump administration, and, on March 17th, NYC will see 'Irish Stand', a rally to assert that anyone who supports Trump's travel ban has 'forgotten the Irish story'.
And all over the world, the 'greening' of rivers, symbolic landmarks and buildings will push the message of Ireland as a great place to be altogether, and the perfect destination in which to spend your holiday money.
Though, maybe less so if you're a woman of childbearing age. Or a refugee. Or an asylum seeker. Or someone desperately trying to discover whether the Church falsified official documents, buried your sibling in an unmarked grave, or trafficked him or her to America.
Here in Corca Dhuibhne her name was Danú, which means Water. Elsewhere she has other names. But everywhere she brings health and balance to the universe and fertility back to the earth.
This St Patrick's Day it might be good to remember that the hallmark of authoritarianism is the desire to control and corrupt the stories of who we are and where we came from.
Out April 2017 from The Collins Press.