This Saturday marks the beginning of the annual St. Patrick’s Festival, a four-day celebration of all things Irish leading up to our national holiday on Tuesday, 17 March.
Millions of people around the world feel a strong connection with Ireland, even if they've never had the opportunity to visit the country, and from Bordeaux to Buenos Aires, Sydney to San Francisco, Krakow to Cricklewood, they too will share in our tribute to the talents and achievements of the Irish people.
For us Irish at home, St. Patrick’s Day is about pride; about reminding ourselves of where we have come from, and where we are headed. To mark this year’s national celebrations, we give you 10 reasons why Ireland is hot right now.
- The people
Where else could we possibly start? Irish people are famously friendly, as visitors quickly discover when their taxi driver greets them like a long-lost friend at the airport and proceeds to talk to them non-stop about the weather, the state of the traffic and the best pubs in Dublin for the next 30 minutes. Wherever you’re from, you will get a warm welcome in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Belfast and all points in between. Irish people love the craic, and guess what? The Irish accent is now officially the sexiest in the world. Wahey!
- The bounce-back
Ireland was particularly badly hit by the recession, and we went through five years of bewildering pain and economic suffering. As unemployment shot up, at one point it was estimated that an Irish person was emigrating every six minutes. Now, however, we are bouncing back. For the third successive year, both GDP and GNP are up and Ireland is now the fastest-growing economy in Europe. These are still the early stages of the recovery, but we’re on the way.
- The tech
Not for nothing is Ireland known as the ‘Silicon Valley of Europe’. As agency MD Owen Cullen pointed out in a recent interview with PR Week, virtually all the big boys of the tech world are headquartered in Ireland – Google, Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Dell, Cisco, LinkedIn, you name it, they’re here. A favourable tax regime plays its part alright, but the tech giants also recognise a young, highly skilled and flexible workforce when they see one.
- The tourists
2014 was a fantastic year for overseas visitors and that trend has continued into this year, with the number of overseas visits between November 2014 and January 2015 increasing by more than 9% compared to the previous year. With so much to do and see, this stands to reason – Newgrange, the Cliffs of Moher, the Giant’s Causeway! The Burren! The Guinness Storehouse! The only problem for visitors is what to leave out. It also helps that our national airline is the friendliest in the world.
- The tunes
These days it’s all about Hozier, Kodaline, The Strypes, James Vincent McMorrow and yes, even old-stagers U2. (Remember them?) But for millions of people around the world, Irish music is still all about the traditional diddly-aye session in a quaint village pub. And the good news is that our trad scene is going as strong as ever. Trust us, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard the real thing.
- The passion for potatoes
Just kidding. Yes, we still love our spuds but Ireland’s food sector has exploded in the past few years, and Dublin in particular is now regarded as one of the most vibrant, cutting-edge culinary capitals in Europe. Ireland’s stock as a food producer has also never been higher: we recently became the first EU country to be re-admitted to the lucrative US beef market, a major endorsement of our national commitment to food quality, safety and sustainability.
- The roads
The state of our roads used to be a national joke, but that has all changed. Major infrastructural investment has produced an excellent road network, and one that’s perfect for exploring the country by car. Indeed, Ireland boasts some of the most spectacular drive routes in Europe including the Wild Atlantic Way, the Copper Coast, the Sheep’s Head Way and the Ring of Kerry. If you’re fond of a road trip, you have a dazzling array of options. We drive on the left, by the way.
- The rugby
We used to be good at rugby. Then for a long time we were hopeless. Then we were OK again. And now, we’re really good! At the time of writing Ireland are ranked 3 in the world, unbeaten in this year’s Six Nations, just two victories (Wales, Scotland) away from our second consecutive championship and only the third Grand Slam in our history. This matters why? Because in Ireland, rugby has always been more than just a sport; it’s a unifying force that helped to bring north and south together during the darkest days of the ‘troubles’. If we beat Wales this Saturday you’ll probably hear the roars wherever you are in the world.
- The bit up north
Speaking of the north, have you visited Northern Ireland lately? You really should. A long-time – but understandable – omission from many visitors’ itinerary, NI is now an absolute must-see, not only for our friends from overseas but also for the many Irish people who simply haven’t got around to getting across the border. (The border is long gone, incidentally.) Worth it alone for the stunning Titanic Belfast – the world’s biggest Titanic visitor attraction.
- Yes, the beer
We’ve left this one for last, even though it’s the first thing that many people think of around St. Patrick’s Day – after all, as we’ve just pointed out, there’s a lot more to Ireland these days than our famous black beer. But for millions of visitors, a real pint of Guinness is still one of the true, simple pleasures of visiting our beloved Emerald Isle. So order a pint. Watch it settle while you chat to the barman. And then relish that amazing taste and creamy texture. Just don’t add blackcurrant to it.
On behalf of all the team at Cullen Communications, have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day!
(Photo via www.RossiterPhotography.com)