St Patrick’s Day celebrations suffer because of the economic crisis.
Blarney levels will be subdued in Brussels for this year’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations. The Irish permanent representation to the EU and the embassy to Belgium have decided not to hold their traditional 17 March reception in the EU quarter this year, because of austerity measures back in Ireland.
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The official line – doubtless given while looking uncomfortably over the shoulder to the Dublin office of the new finance minister, Michael Noonan – is that the large-scale receptions of the past are “neither financially feasible nor appropriate in current circumstances”.
Short-term gain for long-term pain? The decision certainly robs Irish diplomats of an opportunity to massage support from member state peers for a better deal on the bail-out funding and hanging on to the country’s low corporate tax rate.
The two diplomatic representations are teaming up with the University of Leuven’s Irish College to hold a smaller reception at the college today (17 March). But a small-scale event in Leuven is unlikely to provide the same chance for international schmoozing. This will be an ‘Irish only’ bash: invitations have been sent only to Irish citizens working for EU institutions.
In its own way it will, however, follow a tradition. The Irish College was set up in Leuven in 1607, as a haven for Roman Catholic monks to continue education in their own tradition after the Protestant English authorities in Dublin established control of the island. This year it will serve as a refuge for a little unbridled hedonism, safe from the prying eyes of budgetary disciplinarians from elsewhere in Europe. One Irish official at the European Commission said however that he did not expect many of his Irish counterparts to make the trek to Leuven, since they would have to stay sober to drive back.
Those wanting to raise a traditional Irish stout (at someone else’s expense) and not leave Brussels will be on short rations. The Irish embassy will offer a drink and snack by the venerable Manneken Pis near the Grand Place in Brussels today.
The boy statue famously relieving himself is to be dressed in traditional Irish clothing to mark St. Patrick’s Day. A small gesture of solidarity – or an expression of Irish views on how the old country is being treated by the powers that be in Brussels?