March 17, 2009 -- Think you know all there is to know about the Emerald Isle? Ponder these 10 trivia tidbits from Irish Central while you're celebrating Saint Patrick's Day.
Your extensive knowledge will surely impress that lovely lass at the other end of the bar. Or at the very least, your friends.
Technically, It Is an Offense to Be Drunk in Public in Ireland
This has to be one of the least enforced laws in the history of any legal system. If the letter of the law were to be enforced in this area, half the county would have to be incarcerated every weekend -- but it is indeed true. Regulations introduced last year allow the police to issue on-the-spot fines for anyone caught being drunk in a public place in Ireland.
In reality, however, the police are generally pretty happy for you to get as hammered as you want, as long as you aren't bothering anyone else, and aren't in any immediate danger of hurting yourself. So drink up! (But do it safely.)
An Irishman Founded the Argentinean Navy
William Brown, who was born in County Mayo, is acknowledged as the founder of the Argentine navy, and was also an important leader in the Argentine struggle for independence from Spain.
His family left for Philadelphia around 1786, when he was 9. He started off seafaring as a cabin boy, and ended up fighting in the Napoleonic wars, where he was captured as a prisoner of war. Then he escaped the Germans, before eventually ending up Montevideo, Uruguay, where he became a sea trader, and later ended up founding the Argentine navy, which was involved in a war against Spain.
Today there is a statue of Brown in his hometown of Foxford, Co. Mayo, which was unveiled in 2007, the 150th anniversary of his death; in Argentina, where he is regarded as a hero, there are two towns, around 1,000 streets and 500 statues, a city and a few football clubs, named after him.
Only 2 Members of U2 Were Born in Ireland
David Howell Evans, more commonly known as The Edge, was born in London, to Welsh parents, Garvin and Gwenda Evans, who moved to Malahide in Dublin when The Edge was one year old. Adam Clayton, U2's bassist, was born in Oxfordshire, England. His family moved to Malahide in Dublin when he was five, and he became childhood friends with The Edge. Only Bono and Larry Mullen Jr. were actually born in Dublin.
The Street on Which You Will Find the British Embassy in Tehran Is Named After an Irishman
The street on which you will find the British Embassy in Tehran is named after an Irishman.
In 1981, the death of Bobby Sands, the leader of the IRA hunger strikers, brought the world's attention on the seemingly intractable conflict in Northern Ireland. Two years before, the Iranian revolution brought the Ayatollah Khomeini into power in Iran. Presumably to annoy the British government , or perhaps as a token of solidarity with the hunger strikers (depending on your perspective), the Iranian government changed the street on which the British Embassy is located, from "Churchill Boulevard" (after the British prime minister) to "Bobby Sands Street." Pedram Moallemian, an Iranian student who was involved in renaming the street, wrote, "The larger victory, however, was when we discovered the embassy had been forced to change their mailing address and all their printed material to reflect a side door address in order to avoid using Bobby's name anywhere."
Up Until Around the Early 1990s, Ireland Had a Low Per Capita Consumption of Alcohol
Obviously whenever the word "Irish" comes up, "drinking" is never far behind. And it is true that today, Ireland's alcohol consumption, which has fallen in recent years, is still very high by international standards.
A survey in 2006, for example, found that the Irish spend a higher proportion of their income than any other country in Europe, and also found that the Irish were the worst binge drinkers in Europe. So the recent evidence certainly supports the old Irish drunkard stereotype. But prior to Ireland becoming a wealthy country, its alcohol consumption per population was actually quite moderate: throughout the 20th century in Ireland, there was a high level of alcohol abstinence, as this is a trait more commonly associated with Protestant countries.
But as the Catholic Church saw its moral authority decline toward the end of the 20th century, and as the country became wealthier, the Irish came to drink a lot more -- finally earning themselves the stereotype that has been fixed to them for so long. One likely reason the Irish had earned themselves this stereotype of being heavy drinkers was because of their immigrants: no doubt to drown out the pain of being dislocated from their home country, Irish immigrants in the U.K. and the U.S. tended to be big drinkers.
A Hospital in Belfast Is a World Leader in Kneecap Reconstruction
God knows, there have been many a kneecap that has had to have been reconstructed in Northern Ireland over the last few decades. (Shooting people in the kneecaps was a favored way for Republican and loyalist paramilitaries to control their own neighborhoods.) During the Troubles, the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast had one of the top trauma units in Europe. At one point as many as 100 victims of "limb executions" were being treated by the hospital every year, whose advances included external "limb scaffolding" that enables partial healing for bone damage too severe for reconstruction.
Ireland Has the Fourth Largest Stadium in Europe
Dublin's Croke Park, the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association, is the fourth largest stadium in Europe: since its redevelopment in 2005, and with a capacity of 82,300, only four venues in Europe are bigger: Barcelona's Camp Nou, Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu, Milan's Stadio San Siro and London's Wembley. Up until 2007, rugby and soccer were not allowed to be played in Croke park by the GAA, a rule that was relaxed when the main soccer and rugby stadium, Landsdown Road, was closed for renovation.
In the Summer of 2007, It Rained in Ireland for 40 Days Straight
Even by Irish standards, this was a very, very wet summer. By August 24, it had rained in Ireland for 40 days -- fulfilling an Irish proverb that says if it should rain on St. Swithin's day (July 15), it will continue to rain every day for the next 40. Usually, an Irish summer will give at least a few weeks of sunshine and a break from the rain -- at which time the feel good factor in the country goes sky high, for the sheer novelty value of sunshine. But not so, the summer of '07.
Playboy Was Banned in Ireland Until 1995
More Guinness Is Sold in Nigeria Than in Ireland
That's right: Ireland is the third largest market for Guinness. Nigeria is at second, and the U.K. is the first.