The Snakes Have Returned to Ireland | John Duggan | First Things

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St. Patrick’s Day is nearly upon us. Its approach recalls for me something that happened last year in Dublin involving the patron saint and the poster for a cabaret night. 

But first some context. The St. Patrick’s Festival of 2022 lasted four days and was billed as a global celebration of Irish arts, culture, and heritage. A “Festival Quarter” was established in the historic Collins Barracks. The official website for the celebration promised that the grounds would be transformed into “a magical day-to-night urban Festival for all, in the heart of Dublin.” The principal funder was the government of Ireland: The department of tourism and culture alone contributed over €900,000 (i.e., close to a million dollars).

“Festival Quarter Nights” consisted of activities specifically for over-18s. One evening there was an event called “Paradise Cabaret”: “Comedy, Circus, Music, Weirdos and Queerdos.” It was time, the festival organizers declared, “to embrace the cultural revolution of colour, carnival and chaos.” It was all going to be “savage craic”—that is, tremendous fun, roughly speaking. 

The poster for Paradise Cabaret was striking, fusing motifs from psychedelia, eastern religion, sci-fi, and circus. Deep but luminous tones pulsed against a background the color of night. There was also a conventional pious image of St. Patrick’s head, of the kind typically found on prayer cards. He was haloed and mitred, and his bearded face wore a solemn, careworn expression. 


The Snakes Have Returned to Ireland | John Duggan | First Things

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