WASHINGTON (AFP) — A petition has been launched in cyberspace, bars and retail stores to make St Patrick's Day -- the feast of the patron saint of Ireland -- a holiday in the United States.
"If we have a million signatures by midnight March 16, we're going to get it into the hands of someone in Congress and try to get the ball rolling," said Shawn Clair of the public relations firm which handles the US account of a very well known Irish stout beer, which is sponsoring the campaign.
"The campaign has been launched for a couple of weeks now and we already have 70,000 online signatures," said Clair.
St Patrick's Day falls on March 17.
"This is a very sincere effort. There are over 90 parades in the US dedicated to St Patrick's Day, and yet it's not an official holiday," said Clair.
According to the US Census Bureau, 36 million US residents claim Irish ancestry -- nearly nine times more than the population of Ireland, which stands at just over four million.
Millions of Irish died or emigrated in the mid-1800s, when a potato famine hit the small island, which was then governed by Britain.
The population of Ireland fell from around 8.2 million before the famine to 4.4 million in 1911 as rampant poverty, hunger and disease drove the Irish out of their country in huge migratory waves.
Many settled in the United States, where, according to the Census Bureau, 12 percent of Americans have Irish blood.
Advocates of another day off in the United States can either sign the petition online, at http://www.petition317.com, or in bars and shops that sell the dark Irish brew with a creamy blond head, Guinness, which is supporting the effort and funding it with full-page ads in newspapers.
Thirty-second TV spots promoting the idea are due to air in the coming days, said Clair.
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