This is long, but worth the read. Makes me want to smack someone!
Ouch! The Paddywhacking has started all over again
Saturday April 04 2009
As Ireland's economy goes from downright frightful to even more woeful, critics are lining up to shower us with the most ill-mannered jibes.
Air traffic may be down, but the arrivals lounge at Dublin airport seems to be full of wise-cracking hacks and pundits ready to pour scorn on our heads.
They are all apparently eager to portray us as a nation of wide boy property spivs, dodgy beer-swilling bankers, and politicians who could barely tie their shoelaces, let alone run a country. Not to mention, ladies who wear their pyjamas during the day.
Frankly, our recent reviews have been atrocious. Now I know what it must have felt like to have been the playwright, after Groucho Marx remarked, "I didn't like the play but then I saw it under adverse conditions -- the curtain was up.''
I would not begrudge our neighbours the opportunity to give us a good whack.
It's the Paddywhackery that rather grates on the nerves.
The Sunday Times was the latest to drape this land in 40 shades of spleen last weekend with a hoary old tale under the headline, 'How the Celtic Tiger lost its roar'.
The cover story was illustrated with a picture of a mournful, and somewhat damp, shamrock-emblazoned kitten.
No Celtic Tiger metaphor is too laboured for our friends in the international media, of course, as we flounder around in the gutter. The man from the Canberra Times (Yes, even they are rubbing our noses in it) said the Celtic Tiger "turned out to be no more than a pussycat on steroids''.
But it was the man from the Sunday Times who really excelled himself last weekend.
No Paddy-the-Irish cliché was left undisturbed as the writer went through a Blarney-by-numbers analysis of our woes.
Pints of Guinness. Check.
Priest in public house. Check.
As with other Celtic Tiger fables, now appearing daily in the international media, the subtext was clear: the priest-ridden peasants got their hands on some dough, became a little bit uppity, and now they are receiving their rightful comeuppance.
The hackneyed Sunday Times lament declared; "The Celtic Tiger that transformed a beer-soaked backwater into the envy of every small nation with a thirst for a makeover is dead, and its cubs are looking to emigrate because they see no future.''
Things are so bad, in fact, that the "Paddies'' (yes, "Paddies'') are heading for Poland to find work. That is where we are going in droves, apparently.
During our period of prosperity, readers were told, "a threadbare land of saints and scholars had become the Singapore of Europe'' (which must be quite mystifying to the more sober residents of that Asian city state).
The writer deserves credit for finding a home-grown Irish pundit who actually said of his return to Ireland in the Celtic Tiger heyday: "I left a godly land of broke but merry alcoholics and came back to a place where people who used to dig potatoes were buying luxury apartments sight-unseen and driving Porsches.''
And it goes on, "On a Sunday, the shops were full with people who seemed to worship Versace in the way our grandmothers worshipped the Virgin Mary."
Yes, it's all true. Around 1997, your neighbour gave up digging the aul spuds and disappeared into the sunset in a souped-up sportscar.
So how did it all go wrong? When in doubt, if you are a visiting hack, go to a pub, where you might bump into a priest, a property baron picking up pennies off the floor, or the Minister for Finance in the gents.
"First you have to go to Doheny & Nesbitt, a pub in Dublin,'' advises the Sunday Times man. "Take a seat in one of the oak snugs and order a pint of the black stuff (groan). It's here that it all started.''
Here, according to the incisive chronicler of our misfortunes, every night, politicians, bankers, businessmen and the "odd holy man" turn up to drink. Lord save us.
And here, 20 years ago, after "beery musings'', they planted the philosophical seeds for the Irish economic miracle, and its ultimate demise.
The chap from the New York Times also went to Doheny and Nesbitt's back in January in the company of the developer Sean Dunne. Curiously, he also wrote of "beery musings" that turned into government policy.
The man from the New York Times wrote of multimillionaires "living large in a country just coming to grips with its ability to show a little swagger".
And sure enough, the Sunday Times said "Ireland was livin' it large and lovin' it".
Of course, no Celtic Tiger horror story is complete without a visit to Limerick. The people of the city will no doubt take exception to the Sunday Times claims that the city has the "worst gang warfare in Europe". The city is now so poor, according to the article, that corner shops sell single tea bags.
And then of course we come to the most essential ingredient of every feature about the Irish economic nightmare -- the Iceland joke.
If only I had a euro for each time I have seen the joke about the difference between Ireland and Iceland -- it's one letter and six months -- I could repay the national debt 10 times over.
The joke has appeared countless times in newspapers here and abroad since it first surfaced in November of last year, but it was still given a run- out in the Sunday Times last weekend.
While the Paddywhackery makes for grim reading, it has to be admitted that some of the observations of our foreign visitors are amusing.
According to this scientific measurement, you can gauge our public welfare by the number of people who are dressed in their PJs while walking along the street during the day.
Amusing as this concept is, it seems to be quite flawed. There were many daytime pyjama wearers on the streets of Dublin and elsewhere at the peak of the boom.
We can of course take all the brickbats on the chin, but I do have to draw the line at adverse commentary from the Royal Bank of Scotland.
A scathing report from RBS stated that Ireland was in the worst financial position of all the countries in the eurozone.
When you are being dissed by RBS, an outfit that recently recorded a loss of £24bn -- the largest in British corporate history -- you know you're really banjaxed. My word, those bankers have a brass neck.
- Kim Bielenberg