UEA SU to give out leprechaun hats for Paddy’s Day, even though they banned sombreros

Jo Swo said ‘black or minority ethnic’ dress-up is a problem, not Irish culture

UEA’s Students’ Union plan to hand out 100 Irish leprechaun hats for St. Patrick’s Day, despite banning Mexican sombreros from being worn in the SU due to cultural appropriation two years ago.

On Friday the 17th of March – a cultural and religious celebration of the foremost patron saint of Ireland – the SU will not be honouring Saint Patrick with a parade, the colour green, or shamrocks, but instead, they are giving away free leprechaun hats to the first 100 boozed students at the door of the LCR.

SU Welfare Community and Diversity Officer, Jo Swo, commented that mocking “people who are black or minority ethnic” is a problem, but not “Celtic folklore”, and therefore providing free leprechaun hats for Ireland’s patron saint day is not cultural appropriation in the same breadth as sombreros.

She said: “In general costumes that mock the clothing or culture of people who are black or minority ethnic are a problem – but in the case of leprechaun hats, there’s a world of difference between costumes that celebrate fictitious characters from Celtic folklore and offensive cultural appropriation.

“We said back in 2015 that there’s often a fine line, but on balance this time we don’t think that leprechaun hats or Guinness promos cross it.”

This, whilst otherwise being a pretty standard LCR night, appears ironic when just two years ago the SU banned freshers from wearing sombreros given to them by the owners of Pedro’s.

The Union based this decision on a violation of strict cultural appropriation rules, which explicitly prohibited any use of stereotypical imagery in advertising.

When many Irish people see the modern representation of a leprechaun on St. Paddy’s Day offensive, UEA’s Union decision to  advertising free leprechaun hats is questionable. Saint Patrick is not a fictional character, but a fifth-century bishop and missionary in Ireland.

This night still looks like a decent sesh, but the Union should be able to answer more accountably when faced with accusations of hypocrisy

You can buy tickets here.