Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and so forth. In the USA this holy day is fraught with pious religious significance, in the sense that tomorrow morning a lot of people will be throwing up into green plastic hats. In Ireland, apparently it has become traditional to celebrate St Patrick’s Day by getting fucked up on bath salts. No, really.

… “bath salts” are popular these days throughout Ireland, not for a relaxing soak at home but because many contain a party drug known as mephedrone. They’re part of the literally dizzying array of products being sold in stores offering customers cheap and legal highs, stuff marketed as bath salts or incense but designed to be smoked, snorted or swallowed.

The new-wave head shops are fast becoming a fixture in this island nation, multiplying with astonishing speed from just a few several years ago to as many as 100 today. Much of the growth has occurred in the last 12 months, even as the rest of the Irish economy underwent a painful contraction.

And fair enough. I distinctly remember one very memorable St. Patrick’s Day when my wife experienced a painful contraction and loudly demanded drugs. (Our youngest turned four today — yes, his birthday really is March 17.)

In the absence of bath salts, St. Patrick’s Day news from Ireland is grim, as the inexorable and seemingly interminable horror of the Irish Catholic Church’s child abuse and child rape scandal engulfs the primate, Cardinal Sean Brady.

CARDINAL SEÁN Brady has apologised again for his handling of complaints against child abuser Fr Brendan Smyth and expressed shame that he has not always upheld the values that he professes and believes in….

In his homily during Mass yesterday morning at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, Cardinal Brady said: “This week a painful episode from my own past has come before me. I have listened to reaction from people to my role in events 35 years ago. I want to say to anyone who has been hurt by any failure on my part that I apologise to you with all my heart.”

Cardinal Brady conducted canonical inquiries into allegations of child sex abuse by Smyth 35 years ago, involving two young people, without reporting the allegations to civil authorities.

For those who don’t know, “Fr Brendan Smyth” in Ireland is about as bad as it gets. The Smyth affair brought down a government and was a national Irish trauma… in 1994. 16 years ago.

When you’re Irish, you get used to the idea of waiting for justice. No matter how long it takes. I hope, for the sake of the victims, they live to see it. But I doubt anyone’s holding their breath.