Today we honor St. Patrick, born around the year 380. His parents were Roman citizens living on Britain. At thirteen he was taken by slavers who carried him off to northern Ireland where he was purchased by a man named Milchu, who set him to herding his sheep. Although Patrick had not been particularly religious, Jesus became his sole companion out on the hills. At seventeen he escaped, finding passage to northern France.
Making his way south, he advanced in his schooling while staying with Catholic relatives in Lyons. Then, with a desire to be closer to God, he made his way south to the island of Lerins off the coast, where Athanasius, the exiled bishop of Alexandria had founded a monastery some fifty years earlier.
There, Patrick took to singing the Psalms at set hours of the day, and he made frequent use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In 430 Pope Celestine appointed him the bishop of all Ireland. Ireland at that time had no towns. The clans all followed the seasons. To serve them, Patrick didn't establish any parishes, instead he founded monasteries where the wanders could stop by for Sacraments.
Patrick's importance with the Irish stems from their being a downtrodden nation greatly in need of a champion. In 1155 our only English pope, Adrian IV, put Ireland under the care of England, and from then until 1916 the Irish were ruled at the whim of England's kings who portioned Ireland off into the estates of English Lords.
Then, with the English rebelling against the popes, they persecuted the Irish for remaining Catholic. In 1649 England's future Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, judging the Catholics of Drogheda and Wexford to be heretics with no right to live, put all the people there to the sword. As well, down to my great grandparents' time, Irish Catholics were bound to tithe to the Church of England.
The Irish are no better than any other race of people, but they had to pretend to be special just to keep their spirits up through terrible times.