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With March around the corner, national identity is soaring in Britain. St. David’s Day in Wales comes on March 1 with St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland closely following on March 17. The importance of these days should be recognised, since they affirm a sense of belonging which is renewed annually. It seems that Ireland, Wales and Scotland have a strong sense of National Pride which contrasts sharply to England. To some, St. George’s Day will pass unnoticed with many people not realising its annual passing on April 23. However, many English people will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a pint of Guinness, and so this begs the question of what creates a sense of National Pride, and how can England regain it?
National pride, it can be argued, is a result of conflict. Ireland had to struggle for years in their battle for Home Rule, and since their independence in the formation of the Republic of Ireland, national pride has rocketed. It seems that St. Patrick’s Day is a day of celebrating Ireland’s independence which is why it is so widely recognised. Perhaps since England has been at the centre of the British Empire for so long, she has not had to suffer from a lack of independence, which the smaller countries in the UK and other colonies have. This has resulted in English people taking their independence for granted since they have never had to question their identity.
Similarly, Welsh National Pride has increased over recent years. A third year geography student who examined Welsh national identity in her dissertation has commented that her findings show a clear sense of Welsh Pride. Like St. Patrick’s Day being linked with independence, St. David’s Day also holds this symbolism. Two days after St. David’s Day this year, a devolution referendum will be held by the Welsh National Assembly to strengthen their law making powers in Wales. Holding the referendum so close to the country’s National Day displays the important symbolism St. David’s Day holds for Wales; a symbol of independence. Wales’s desire for extended independent power perhaps also stems from Scotland and Ireland’s distancing from England; results of which has shown significantly different handlings of matters such as free tuition fees in Scotland, displaying how the parliaments have taken different approaches to the English Government.
The lack of National Identity in England has been addressed by David Cameron in a recent conference in Munich. In the speech, Cameron blamed extremism on a ‘weakening of … collective identity’ in Britain, which has led to Muslims feeling they do not belong, leading them into extremist groups where they define themselves solely by their religion. Cameron also suggested that the separation of Britain has occurred because we allow “different cultures to live separate lives apart from each other” creating fragmentation. This leads to the common conception that Nationalist days such as St. George’s Day are racist, where other cultures cannot get involved. However, Ireland and Wales and Scotland have managed to retain a sense of National Identity and so England should too. St. George’s Day should be about celebrating life in England where all faiths can be involved; it is about celebrating our heritage and success as an independent, free country. So this St. George’s Day, support England and celebrate its achievements, even if it is over a cup of tea or game of football!