In celebration of tomorrow’s Feast of St. Patrick, here is an excerpt from Scalia Speaks, from a speech (“Italian View of the Irish”) on the many appealing qualities of the Irish that Justice Scalia delivered to the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in New York City on St. Patrick’s Day in 1988:
Another characteristic of Homo hibernicus—I know you would be annoyed if I did not mention it—is quickness of intellect. Now I must admit that on this point you Irish may be better judges of yourselves than an outsider like me would be. Because the Irish have all sorts of ways of seeming to be knowledgeable when they are not. One, of course, is lying. Any other group would take offense at that—but I am sure that this gathering will proudly agree that nobody in the world can tell a glorious, toweringly false tale as well as an Irishman. An Italian lie is often more subtle and deceptive more likely to be believed. But if it is not believed, it is seen as a sneaky, unworthy, disreputable thing. The wonderful thing about a proper Irish lie is that it does not matter if it is believed. It is such a bold, courageous, imaginative invention that, even when you see through it, you are so impressed with the quality of mind that could concoct such nonsense that it is impossible to have anything but admiration for the author. That is the great strength of the Irish lie: It does not matter whether it is believed or not.