buckfast and paddywagons: photographing irish youth on saint patrick’s day

Dublin art collective Pussys Club take time out of a national day of sessioning to ask the youth around town how it feels to be Irish in 2017.

by i-D Staff
27 March 2017, 10:45am

Ask anyone what Ireland means and they might describe something like drunk priests downing Guinness while tap dancing on a wooden barrel rolling through green fields. It's a ridiculous caricature of a rich and ancient culture, but maybe not when compared to actual things that have happened in Ireland. Contraception was illegal here until 1980, when it was legalised with strong restrictions. Gay sexual activity was illegal until 1993. Divorce was illegal until 1997. And abortion is still illegal, a ban the UN calls "cruel, inhuman and degrading".

Catholic teachings were packaged up with leprechauns and 'twee' lifestyle and it all became part of a theocratic national brand. Throw in a few child abuse scandals and Sinead O'Connor ripping up pictures of the pope, however, and you're on the road towards a dramatic social turnaround.

In May 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage by popular vote. It was a win that was largely attributed to the mobilisation of the young. Boys and girls of all kinds fought side by side in the battle to win votes as well as hearts and minds. Since then there has been steady emergence of a new youth culture - one that is inclusive, energised and politicised.

Pussys Club, a Dublin art collective (and sometimes actual club) is at the centre of this new culture. Started by "a couple of weirdos with nowhere to go together after the referendum", it now has about 50 members involved on the making of a DIY youth culture magazine, a street wear line and the odd rave/art show thrown in for good measure (See Pilly Willy: Rave Ephemera from the Queer Underground, when they got the keys to a vacant college building for a week, built our own club and did a retrospective of 80s/90s gay rave flyers).

Pussys took some time out of a national day of excess to ask the youth around town how it feels to be Irish in 2017.

Cian, 17
Are you proud to be Irish?
Yeah 100%, it's like one big community. It's tight-knit, and you can tell it means something to everyone who is Irish. We're very passionate people and that's cool.

What's changing in Ireland?
Everything really. We've always kind of been behind in terms of modern society, but these days we're making breakthroughs, everyone here is free to be themselves without judgement and it's rare to see.

Francis, 18
Describe Ireland to someone who's never seen it?
It's a mix of the traditional green fields and then weird street corners with a love of UV lights.

What Ireland like for young queer people?
A lot of young people don't really care what the hell you are anymore so it's not a big deal. You get the obvious scumbags of course, like everywhere else, but mostly everyone isn't bothered enough to care. It's getting very relaxed which is nice and even aul ones don't blink an eye. There's still a good bit to go for the transgender system in terms of transitioning, because the clinic is only open once a week with a year-long waiting list, but it is moving along. There needs to be a lot more education on sex, drugs and the female body. I feel like if everyone was educated on the stages of pregnancy and the female body in general, Repeal the 8th wouldn't be an issue.

Hugh, 23
What does ''Irishness'' mean to you?
Shame-fuelled shamelessness.

Joanna, 20
Describe Ireland to someone who's never seen it.
I moved to Ireland from Poland when I was 13 with little knowledge of it before my move. My first impression was that it was so beautiful and calm. I spent 3 hours on a coach and all I saw outside was big green fields and then random little towns that we passed through. I also noticed there was a lot of takeaways and pubs in those towns. The coastal parts of Ireland and beautiful and wild. Loads of cliff sides and hidden beaches. The sky is mostly grey but when the sun does come out it's one of the most beautiful places you have ever seen!

Christy, 21
What does Paddy's Day mean to you?
It means drinking 2 euro cans of foreign beer and wearing some shit that hasn't seen the light of day since last year. Oh shit I just realised that rhymes haha. Thing I like most about Ireland is that it feels like one of the most accepting countries in the world. Especially my generation, people don't care too much about race, sexuality or religion. If you don't act an idiot, then there's acceptance.

Megan, 20
Are you proud to be Irish?
I love being Irish. I used to hate it when I was younger cause I was obsessed with American TV and just thought it was really uncool. But as I've gotten older I've seen an underground part of Dublin that's full of insane artists, musicians, designers, freaks, queens etc. and that kinda blew me away. Everyone seems to be constantly making and doing things and organising events and political movements, all whilst going out and getting mangled every weekend. I'M SO PROUD!

What's changing in Ireland?
There's been a massive emergence of creative weirdos which I think has changed its atmosphere - you can really see it on nights out and walking through the streets of Dublin. Everyone seems a lot more accepting now - especially with the gays! So now you can see boys prancing around in dresses up Grafton street and girls with their nips out. I think it was sparked by a restlessness given our history of being controlled and restrained, so we just kinda burst.

What do you make of the people in charge?
Well the people in charge are mainly a bunch of old men that get upset if they see a tit and are completely blinded by Catholicism and their own blissful ignorance. I honestly think half of them have absolutely no idea what is going on and the majority of the rest of them are idiots, like gay marriage was only legalised in 2015?? And abortion is still illegal??? BUT I do think we are moving forward and at least we're not being ruled by Trump.

Alex, 17
Are you proud to be Irish?
I'm so proud to be Irish. I'm proud of our rich history, our timeless culture and the voice we have fought so hard for. We're not perfect but we're learning. There's more freedom than ever before, more cultures around the country that complement ours. The creativity is flowing and the people are engaging. It's an exciting time. One love.

Jake, 17
What does "Irishness'' mean to you?
A cup of tea.

What's changing in Ireland?
Everything - we've been stuck in a box for 50 years and now everyone is just doing whatever the fuck they want. It's like one minute everyone was a conservative Catholic and now nobody is confined to anything. I feel like Ireland is in a crazy place right now. We're just breaking out of being a very conservative place, and it's all change. Youth culture looks very promising, I just hope that all the change brings a new sense of identity to the people of Ireland.

What do you make of the people in charge?
Enda Kenny rolls shit joints.

Dylan, 19
What are your hopes for future Ireland?
I hope that one day everyone can walk down the street and people won't feel the need to pass negative remarks if someone is dressed a little bit "out there". Everyone should just be sound like. It's nice to be nice.

What do you make of the people in charge of Ireland?
They need to listen to what the people want before they speak on our behalf (@ Enda Kenny I am looking at you and your congratulatory tweet to Mike Pence #notmytaoiseach). The thing that grinds my gears the most in Ireland is the 8th Amendment - it's ridiculous that free, safe and legal abortion is not accessible.

Liam, 17
Are you proud to be Irish?
I'm proud to be Irish. There's a lot of talent and great people in Ireland. The atmosphere over here is great, especially in Dublin. I'm happy to say I'm from here.

Rory, 16
What are your hopes for future Ireland?
I think Ireland is changing more now than ever. It's thriving more in its independence and creativity and keeps surprising everyone with upcoming individuals with different ideas and projects in the music, fashion and art industries. A lot of people think only good artists come from places like the America or Britain, but if you take a look under the surface you'll find a lot more than you expect, and it won't be long before we rise above that surface.

Join Pussys club here.


Text and photography Seán Püssys

Saint Patrick's Day
pussys club