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May 2019
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2011-03-15 Ambassadors for Ireland

a column written by James for the Sligo Weekender

As another Patricks Day approaches, perhaps this year more than ever we ask ourselves what it is that has made our wee green welcoming island of saints and scholars on the outlying edge of North-Western Europe loved and fêted across the world. Perhaps its our rich enthralling history chequered with innumerable invasions and unwelcome occupations, the Famine and its wide-ranging global consequences, our musical and literary treasure-trove, our spellbinding wealth of folklore and traditions, our alluring sense of humour? Or is it simply the perfect pint of plain, a bowl of seafood chowder with home-made brown bread, as The Quiet Man plays on the Plasma-screen over an open-turf-fire?

Oh that it were so&.

Instead, we are the laughing-stock of the financial and business world  and through no fault of our own.

The centenary of the Easter Rising is fast approaching, and those who fought to make our nation great are spinning in their graves, as the word patriot is distorted and re-invented. A patriot is someone who loves and serves his country devotedly, for the good of that country, and his fellow countrymen. Not for himself, his family and his party. We have been essentially turned into a totalitarian state with tribal leanings, populated by debt-slaves, weighed down by a toxic debt around our necks for which none of us is responsible.

As we sat on our decking, in drizzling rain, sipping our skinny lattes, savouring our pains-au-chocolat, our Tiger was the envy of the world  a model nation. We aspired to appear more European, and more American. Immigration replaced emigration. As we tweeted and blogged of our new-found status, we refused to admit to ourselves that those loveable rogues who were in charge of our destiny, running our idyllic island, were at all times evasive and ambiguous for good reason. They had all the ingredients at their finger-tips to create a decent respectable society which could continue to shine as a prototype across the world. And what did they do? They messed up. Big time.
Our potentially healthy, self-confident and thriving land morphed into a rather off-green embarassment based on deception, greed, stupidity, and sleaze. Mahon, McCracken, Moriarty and Gogarty became household names, for all the wrong reasons, as the people we repeatedly voted back into the Dáil fiddled expenses, receiving back-handers and unmerited bonuses.

Ah but sure, arent  they loveable rogues?
Politicians, banks, businessmen, and even our beloved Bishops openly lied and covered up horrendous scandals, proving themselves corrupt and deceitful to the core. We borrowed way beyond our means, then woke up to realise that we were at the mercy of banks, bond-holders and politicans. The Real Estate and Credit bubble burst in the most spectacular fashion, and the full extent of decades of greed, dishonesty, lies and cover-ups was apparent for all to see.

Our government created the mess, then mis-managed the mess they created. Yet instead of prison  they were rewarded with fat bonuses and pensions for life. Nobody was prosecuted! Unlike other countries who take to the streets in protest, we sat back saying Tch, tch, arent they shockin all the same&?

However, thankfully, we did protest recently in an astonishing display of national anger and frustration by flushing them down the pan at last, as they clutched on to their pensions for dear life. The power of the pencil. Now we wait with baited breath to see how Enda and Eamonll fix it (Hmm&). I remain somewhat frustrated that a country as wee as ours still has almost 200 full-time TDs, plus Councillors, and a Seanad.
Perhaps in the meantime each of us can, as individuals in some small way, become Ambassadors for Ireland, and attempt to piece together our severely tarnished image abroad?

Perhaps we could further expand the late 19th Century notion of the Gaelic Revival again, only this time to encompass everything that is good about Ireland, and in so doing re-create a real sense of national identity, a genuine pride in being Irish, and rediscover what it really means to be a patriot? Our own Yeats was a champion of Celtic culture and  poetry, just one of many who celebrated all things Irish/Gaelic. From Michael Coleman to John McCormack, Dervish to U2,  Maureen OHara to Liam Neeson, Yeats to Maeve Binchy, we have many great Ambassadors for Ireland who can help salvage our reputation abroad. Maybe soon we can hold our heads high again, and be proud.

In the meantime, we have a recession.
I suppose theres always Jedward to look forward to&&