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St. Patrick's Day the sober way

Fionnuala Flanagan is lined up for the "Sober St Patrick's Day" celebration at Regis High School in Manhattan.

Sobriety and St. Patrick's Day is not necessarily or immediately synonymous to some ears.

Many more readily associate words such as jovial and craic, and green beer with March 17th.

However, the title of a new event debuting in New York this Saturday, "Sober St Patrick's Day," offers a new twist on celebrating the big Irish day.

The Irish have suffered from the stereotype of the drunken Irishman, most especially at this time of year.

"Sober St Patrick's Day" is hoping to help counteract this negative image.

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Every year, there is an outcry against the stereotypical images of the Irish drinking to excess. A more serious concern is what is behind these images, this being the disease of alcoholism as it effects everyone, not just some Irish people.

"Sober St Patrick's Day" is the brainchild of TV executive William Spencer Reilly, who himself almost lost a family member to addiction and as a result is determined to erase "the stigma of public intoxication" on St. Patrick's Day.

Importantly, Reilly's message is not necessarily against drinking on St. Patrick's Day, but rather to "reclaim the true spirit of the day" and to be able to enjoy fully the beauty and spirit of Ireland's culture.

The idea behind "Sober St. Patrick's Day," set for Regis High School on the Upper East side, is that people in recovery, and their families, or people who don't drink alcohol anyway, can still enjoy a St. Patrick's day party following the big parade.

"Sober St Patrick's Day" has invited hundreds of guests from the Irish community and beyond it to gather around an international Irish holiday in an alcohol-free setting.

The organizers are promising that those attending will "experience a Grand Celebration of Irish Culture, World-Class musicians and dancers" as well as getting to meet some notable honorees and many special guests.

The entertainment lined up includes live performances from John Whelan, the eight time "All Ireland Champion" button accordion player, and his band, The John Whelan band, Brian Conway, the five time "All Ireland Champion" fiddle player, keyboard player Brendan Dolan, KT Sullivan, the acclaimed Broadway singer, The Mulvihill-Lynch Irish dancers, Former Miss USA, Tara Conner, public advocacy consultant for Caron Treatment Centers, Sister Mary Caron, and other surprise guests.

The honorary organizing committee includes Noel Kilkenny, Irish Consul General in New York, who is being honored at the event, Fionnuala Flanagan, the award-winning actress, Dr. Garrett O'Connor, psychiatrist and writer, and actor/author Malachy McCourt.

Regis High School is at 60 East 85th Street (between Park and Madison Avenue) and the event will run from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Advance tickets are required ($12 per person) and are available as is additional information at