Irish people are famously very friendly and easygoing, yet certain behaviors are sure to rankle. 

As thousands of visitors prepare to flock to Ireland from all over the world for St Patrick’s Day, locals are asking visitors to stop one of the more dubious tourist traditions: groping the breasts on the city's Molly Malone statue.

Located on Suffolk Street in the heart of the capital, the figure depicts the fictional fishmonger and heroine of the well-known song of the same name with the chorus “Crying, ‘Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh.’”

Singer Tilly Cripwell, who regularly busks near the statue, has launched a campaign calling for an end to the “misogynistic” custom of visitors touching its breasts for good luck.

“A lot of people clamour around her, kiss her on the cheek, kiss her boobs, it’s all inappropriate.  I walk by the Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square every day. You don’t see people rubbing his crotch for good luck,” she says. 

As a result of the practice, the bosom area is now a different shade of bronze to the rest of the statue. Dublin City Council is looking at measures to keep visitors away from the work of art, first unveiled in 1988 to mark Dublin's millennium. 

If you’re heading there for the famous St Patrick's Day celebrations, here are a few tips on etiquette in Ireland.  

St Patrick's Day revelers dressed in green stand on the street outside a pub
Getting caught drinking alcohol outdoors in Dublin now carries a fine of up to €500 © Shutterstock

1. Don't drink on the streets of Dublin

While it’s not illegal all over Ireland, consuming alcohol in public places is prohibited within Dublin city. If you’re caught drinking outdoors, gardaí — the Irish police force — may confiscate your drinks, ask you to leave the area or issue a fine of up to €500. 

There’s a zero tolerance policy on St Patrick’s Day: in previous years, gardaí have filled 150 barrels with seized liquor in the Temple Bar area alone, so beware that you could lose out, even if it’s an innocent mistake.

2. Do wait for your pint to “settle”

There’s an art to pouring a pint of the black stuff, and if you dive in the moment you get your hands on it, you’ll not experience the pint in the way it's meant to be consumed. Drinking Guinness the Irish way means allowing the drink to “surge and settle” for a minute or two, until the darker stout sinks under the thick, creamy foam. You’ll not only get that classic Guinness look topped off with a white frothy “head,” it’ll taste way better, too.

Several pints of Guinness lined up along a bar, at various stages of “settling“
Creamy pints of Guinness “settling” before being topped up and served © VanderWolf Images / Shutterstock

3. Do say Paddy, but never Patty

Regardless of what TV chat show hosts like to call it, in Ireland, it’s Patrick or “Paddy’s Day”. Paddy is derived from the Irish name for our patron saint, Pádraig. Patty in Ireland is a burger.

Actor Domhnall Gleeson at the Los Angeles premiere of movie "The Revenant" at the TCL Chinese Theatre, Hollywood.
Pronouncing Irish names, like Domhnall Gleeson, is not always easy © Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

4. Do try your hand at a cúpla focail

Instead of booming out “top o’ the morning” — a phrase no one in Ireland has ever said  —  do try to learn a few words (or “cúpla focail”) of Gaeilge, the native language.  It could be as simple as “sláinte,” the Irish word for “cheers” when toasting a drink, or a “slán” when saying goodbye at the end of the night. When it comes to Irish names, some are tricky to pronounce, but give it a go anyway. It might take a few attempts, but every Saoirse and Domhnall will be delighted when you get it right.

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