On St Patrick’s Day, it seems fitting to provide the following advice to those who are not Irish and are celebrating the day with Irish friends.
“Top o’ the mornin’ to you” is NOT an acceptable greeting, which, similar to begorrah, is only ever used ironically (usually when mocking fake-Oirishness). The newly popularised (particularly in the US) but very irritating “Happy St Patty’s day” is banned. No self-respecting Irish person would ever say this.
Now we have dispelled these myths (and saved you some embarrassment) here are some Irish-themed stats, facts and figures which can be dropped into conversation.
Patrick isn’t as popular as he once was
Once one of the most common boys’ names in Ireland, the popularity of Patrick is on the decline. At the time of the 1911 census, one in 10 men and boys were named Patrick (only John was more popular).
Five decades later, Patrick’s popularity was still flying high. In 1964, one in 15 newborn boys were called Patrick (again second only to John). However, over the past two decades Patrick’s popularity has declined considerably.
As recently as the mid-90s, the name still featured in the top 10 of the most popular baby names but disappeared for the next decade and did not even make the top 20 on three occasions – 2004, 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Patrick accounted for just one in 97 boys born in 2014, a far cry from 50 years earlier.
There are more Murphys in the US than in Ireland
During a speech to the EU parliament last year, the president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, remarked that there were more people with the surname Murphy living in the US than in Ireland in a statement which, in numerical terms at least, is true (although in per capita terms it is the other way round).
The size of the Irish diaspora is estimated at 70 million people, with 44 million people in the US describing themselves as being of Irish descent – more than the current population of the Republic of Ireland (4.6 million).
But the phenomenon of the Irish abroad is not confined to past generations. According to data released in 2015, a larger proportion of people born in Ireland live abroad than any other OECD country, with one in six aged over 15 living elsewhere.
More people can speak Irish than 100 years ago … but few do so daily
At the time of the of the 1911 census, just 17.6% of those interviewed said they could speak Irish. By 2011, that figure had increased to 40.6% so it would be tempting to conclude that the Irish language has made a dramatic recovery.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. About 1.77 million people aged three and over were recorded as being able to speak Irish in the 2011 census. However, a much smaller number (77,185) said they spoke it on a daily basis outside the education system (virtually all Irish schoolchildren are taught Irish in school).
Because of the emphasis on Irish in the education system, the number of people who can speak Irish remains high. Nevertheless, fears that communal use of the language is eroding are common among those who wish to protect it.
Even in the Gaeltacht – areas where Irish is the communal language – the proportion of those speaking it every day fell between the 2006 and 2011 censuses. According to the authors of a more recent report, the use of Irish in these areas is declining more rapidly than anticipated.
Ireland isn’t the only place where St Patrick’s Day is a public holiday
Given how many people have some form of Irish heritage, perhaps it isn’t altogether surprising that the holiday is celebrated in many countries: parades take place in at least 30 countries and there is no doubt that unofficial festivities will be held in many more.
But it is a public holiday in just a few places including, somewhat unexpectedly, the Caribbean island of Montserrat, which has a population of 5,241, where a weeklong festival being held this year celebrates the island’s Irish heritage and commemorates a thwarted slave uprising that had been planned for 17 March 1768.