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I'm a nine-year-old boy, checking out the statue on the mantel. "Who's that, Ma? "

"Saint Patrick, son."

"Who's he?"

"He's the patron saint of Ireland."

"What's a patron saint?"

"A patron saint looks after a country."

"He's not doing a very good job then, is he?"

"What do you mean?"

"Da says that, with that, what with Varadkar and all the other gobshites, the place is in a state of chassis."

"Your father has a mouth on him."


"Saint Patrick looks after Irish souls."

"I thought the Pope did that."

"He does. Saint Patrick helps him."

"Oh. Okay."

"Good boy."

"His hat is funny-looking."

"That's a mitre."

"It's long all right."

"A mitre is the kind of hat that bishops wear. Saint Patrick was Ireland's first bishop. He brought the one true faith to Ireland."

"He was with the EU?"

"No, love. He brought Christianity to Ireland. He made Christians of us."

"What were we before we were Christians?"


"There were pagans in Ireland?"


"What about the saints and scholars?"

"What about them?"

"Were they pagans?"

"No. Pagans can't be saints."

"Why not?"

"They don't believe in God."

"You mean Mary Lou?"

"No, son. I mean the other God. The one in Heaven."

"Where did Saint Patrick come from?"


"So, he was a Protestant?"

"Why do you say that?"

"All the English are Protestants, aren't they?"

My ma rolls her eyeballs. "No, son. Not all of them. And Protestants are Christians too."

"Go 'way."


"If he was English, Ma, Saint Patrick was in the Tory Party."


"Look - he's a man and he has a woman's dress on. I betcha he's up for family values."

She looks at me strangely. "Kids know too much these days," she says.

"My middle name is Patrick," I say.

"That's right. You're called after Saint Patrick."

"I thought I was called after Uncle Paddy."

"You were. But he was called after Saint Patrick, so you are too, sort of. Lots of Irish men are called after Saint Patrick."

"What's that he's standing on?"

"A snake. Saint Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland."

"I thought that was Michael Collins."

"That was later. Different snakes."

"Where's Saint Patrick now?"

"In Heaven."

"With Granny?"


"Granny will like that."


"She always said she liked a good large Paddy of an evening."