Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Giving in to the cliche on St. Patty’s Day

Post by Brian O'Neill on March 17, 2012 at 7:57 am with 10 Comments »
March 18, 2012 1:28 pm

Traditionally speaking, the arrival of March 17 on the calendar brings a few things to mind. March Madness, brackets and rabid basketball fans. Spring training, torrential downpours and frozen little leaguers. Two days past the Ides of March, Caesar’s ghost at rest again.

And, of course, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day. Which means that it is time to put on something green, head down to the pub, drink to excess and, if you’re very lucky, get into a fight. That is certainly the traditional way to celebrate this pseudo-holiday, at least in America.

In Ireland, a country from which my father sailed at the age of 21, the passage of Saint Patrick’s Day is far less remarked. It is little more than the Roman Catholic feast of Saint Patrick, a Roman born in Scotland, abducted in a raid and sold into slavery in Ireland. He escaped at 20, inspired by a vision from God, and returned as a priest to minister to the pagans of Ireland. You gotta admit, that’s a good story (unless you’re a snake).

The American version of this saint’s day was inspired by the heaving arrival of a million Irish people, mostly young men, who fled the Emerald Isle during the potato famine over 150 years ago. These Irish lads had a reputation for working hard, drinking harder and fighting so much that many Irish laborers were replaced by Chinese immigrants on big projects such as the transcontinental railroad.

That reputation, which prompted Notre Dame to anoint their jerseys with a boxing leprechaun, is now firmly ingrained. Instead of taking exception to this less than savory view, the Irish (and by default, Catholic) community in which I was raised in San Francisco absolutely revels in the limelight (pun intended) of Saint Patrick’s Day.

My belief is that the Irish people, especially those now firmly entrenched in the American adventure, are simply too full of spirit to worry about such a thing as a negative stereotype. While a few may be hard drinkers, fighters and rascals, many are also known as cops and firefighters, world travelers and writers of some of literature’s best poetry and prose.

Courtesy of

All in all, the feast of Saint Patrick is a fitting day to celebrate all things Irish, even if the man himself had the audacity to be born somewhere near the Scottish border. So instead of fighting a useless battle against a cliche, let me suggest an alternative. Irish or not, throw on something green, head to the pub tonight and tell all the girls (or guys) to kiss you because you’re Irish. And tell them Patty sent you.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. And always have a designated driver.

Leave a comment Comments → 10
  1. Erin go braless!!!

  2. DavidAnderson says:

    Brian O’Neill is a columnist for the Tacoma News Tribune, writing as a cop. Here’s an excerpt from what he wrote March 17: “It’s Saint Patrick’s Day. Which means that it is time to put on something green, head down to the pub, drink to excess and, if you’re very lucky, get into a fight.”

    This is my response to Mr. O’Neill:

    Your column entitled “Blue Byline” would serve better as the trash can liner in the cell of the 18-year-old young man now likely to be charged with murder in the death of a his neighbor this past Thursday night. While some 100-150 underage drinkers looked on, Frank James Motta was thrown to the ground and punched in the head.

    Motta was responding to a request for assistance from the home-owner who lived next door.

    Motta was a 65-year-old Air Force veteran who fought in the Vietnam War. He was a football coach, retired high school principal, teacher, and volunteer at the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center where he was a patient advocate.

    And you, a cop, even tongue-in-cheek, are advocating for partying – and drinking – and fighting.

    Motta wasn’t a police officer but he is dead for trying to protect and serve.

    “Instead of fighting a useless battle against a cliché, let me suggest an alternative,” you write.

    Let me do the same.

    Rethink your position and publish your retraction. And when you do, I’ll be happy to forward your response to the 850 who are receiving this.

    David Anderson

  3. IMO Brian was merely describing the stereotype, not advocating it. It seems to me he advocates a different approach to the stereotype in his last paragraph.

  4. Brian O'Neill says:

    DavidAnderson- If you can take some time away from your moral self-righteousness, I would recommend another read of my column. The quote mentioned above suggests that I advocated drinking to excess and fighting, when in fact I did not. Perhaps you, like many other critics, failed to either finish the column or chose deliberately to take the quote out of context.

    This column was definitely tongue-in-cheek, as you suggested, and I deliberately chose a light-hearted approach. As an Irish-American I have grown very tired of being made out to be the stereotypical rowdy drinker, especially on Saint Patrick’s Day. I am not that type of person, and I pointed out in the column that the type of behavioral excesses associated with Saint Patrick’s Day actually bear no resemblance to the Irish experience. But we live in a flat and stale world of political correctness, and I do not wish to belabor the point. Instead, I suggest that the spirit of the Irish includes an open heart, and that if people want to wear green and go to the pub then they should go and have a good time.

    Those actions are legal, unlike the violent crime described in your comment. The failure of the drunken mob to intervene on the victim’s behalf is reprehensible. Nowhere in my column did I advocate for this type of behavior. For that you will get no apology. The only omission (which I have since added after considering your comment) would be the suggestion to get a designated driver.

    Unless you are a first responder or work in an emergency room, I likely have far more experience with serious assaults such as the one you described above. I have made it a point to use Blue Byline as a means of advocating for victims of violence (and received a great deal of criticism as a result), and I welcome you to read past columns on this topic, such as “Rights of victims are low priority” (

    Clearly you are upset by the atrocious crime you describe above, and I understand that you are looking to vent that anger at what appears to be a likely target. I suggest, however, that you read a bit more critically before you target someone’s work in this fashion. I would expect that most of these alleged 850 people to whom you forwarded my column will not see the negative portrayal you are choosing to read into it.

    Brian O’Neill
    Blue Byline

  5. DavidAnderson says:

    I have a book in my library entitled “Radical”. The picture is of a guy standing smack dab in the middle of the street. It’s obviously after dark in inner city L.A. There is no mistaking either from the title or the picture what this book will be about – in contrast to your post and my reading of it.

    Clearly, having as I allowed – and you admitted – writing tongue-in-cheek, hardly serves to position yourself squarely in opposition to the party-atmosphere which lends itself both to your heritage and the damage that often is the consequence.

    That you should decide in response that the only change you would make in your piece – to designate a driver – hardly differs from building a hospital at the bottom of the cliff.

    Never in my response did I suggest what you are extrapolating my comment to mean that you would be in support of what happened on the other side of the state. There were consequences. Drinking led to them. They were having a good time.

    I would suggest that you use your position as an officer sworn to protect and serve that when you write you leave no shadow of a doubt what you mean.

  6. Brian O'Neill says:

    DA- Since you appear to be the only person reading a negative slant into the column, it would be far more efficient to suggest you become a more critical reader than it would be for me to dumb down my writing.

    Since police officers are sworn to protect the rights of others – which includes the right to free speech – this also leaves me in the ironic position of informing you that I will continue to write topics which I consider to be of worth to The News Tribune, its readers and myself.

  7. DavidAnderson says:
  8. Maybe the police could do their jobs and chase (police like
    to chase) all the leprechauns wandering up and down the
    street singing Blue Bayou.

  9. BlaineCGarver says:

    Wow….I’m a bit ornery sometimes, but DA is way over the top with anger….Only the criminal is responsible for crime (simple, no?) DA blames cops. *sigh*

  10. DavidAnderson says:

    To stand by and do nothing when we are quite aware a crime is going down (Spokane link) is both “criminal” and does not absolve us from responsibility.

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