After all the miles and miles of newsprint, the millions of tweets, the hour upon hour of broadcast time devoted to the the State of Ireland and the state it is in, none hit the mark as much as those uttered in Washington by Bill Clinton last week. It was fascinating and poignant, because as a nation we are obsessed about how others see us. This stems from producing the blue willow cups for the Yanks every time they came home in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, as if they thought more of us because they believed that we were forever drinking our tay with these, our chubby fingers dallying with this dainty delph.
Because of Clinton’s interest in Ireland, his thoughts about this place were always more urbane and sincere than other foreign summaries of our condition, and so it was last week, when he addressed a gathering in Washington and opined about the state of of Ireland and what aspects of this worry him more than most. The speech made headlines for his reference to the suicide rate that is robbing us of some precious people, but it was so much more than that.
Clinton’s speech was a true summation of where we are, and where we will be again. It was a piece of prose that we all should have listened to and should adjust our lives and thinking to adhere to. And I am going to use it to close my column this week.
And so this evening as we look forward to a weekend in which the clocks go forward and the summer truly arrives, bringing to an end an interminable winter, not just a climactic winter, but an economic and psychological winter in which we have all felt snowed under, let us embrace the new surroundings and see hope rather than despair in nature. Let us mirror the buds which blossom after the most diffcult time.
— and now for Bill:
“Somehow, we need to help our friends in Ireland not just to recover but to keep their heads on straight while they are recovering. It should never be assumed again, that any given level of prosperity was permanent, that any economic arrangement could not be improved, and that any clever thing done might not be tinged with a little arrogance carrying the seeds of its destruction.
We should remember that what we loved about Ireland was how green and beautiful it was . . . how beautiful the poetry and prose were . . . and how wonderful the music and the dance are. I am convinced that if everybody had 30 lucid minutes before passing away, almost nobody would use them to think how cool it was when we got rich.
We would think about who we liked and who we loved and how the flowers smelt in the springtime . . . when we made the passage from youth to adulthood . . . and what it was like when our children were born or when we gave our daughters away at the altar.”
The thing people loved about Ireland had almost nothing to do about whether it was financially successful or not.
It was what it was at the core. Ireland will be great and prosperous and wonderful again, simply by recovering what it is at the core.
So it is for us not only to give advice, investment and support, but to scrape away the barnacles which have clouded the vision of the place we love