Ya know, with all the years when we had money and a few cars outside all of the houses owned, and the Jacuzzi bubbling away on the acre of decking, when every village had its own coke dealer, and the selection of brothels open all hours, when we were just like every other country in Europe nobody ever came calling. We tried to get all shapes of world leader in to show just how far removed we were from the image of the John Hinde postcard.
We wanted to show the world that the freckly-red-faced kids aboard the turf-laden donkey had grown up and had apartments in Croatia, two 4X4s. Heck even the donkey had got a decent share portfolio and had his own box at Leopardstown. We wanted to order cappuccino for the Yanks and say that we wanted a double shot espresso to show that we were more Manhattan than Moycullen. We wanted to show them how this God-forsaken island on a rock on the edge of the Atlantic was now able to outbid the Arabs in Sloane Square, that there would never be a famine here again, unless the Fettucine crop failed, that while the US had ‘yes we can,’ we had ‘yes, we can buy it.’
Did they come to visit? Did they hell? No, they were always too busy. These world leaders didn’t want to have their noses rubbed in it by Paddy and Patricia. It was never the “appropriate moment” for the Queen, Yeltsin hadn’t the legs for it, the Pope was weary and wary of the New Ireland.
Now when we have nawthing, they’re all coming, ya can’t stop them. Never have our roads been more potholed, never have our teeth been less regularly checked, never have we had cars that were older than the century. Here we are getting visitors when there’s not a child in the house washed.
Now that we have neither the proverbial pot to pee in nor the proverbial window to throw it out, there’s no end to the number of world leaders who are flocking this way. Next week, the offspring of a lovely Mayo mammy, Prince Albert comes this way, and will be heading out Oranmore way to visit the Marine Institute with his fiancee, former South African international swimmer Charlene Wittstock. They are to wed in July, so they’ll obviously be checking out a few local hostelries with a view towards throwing the gig Ireland’s way. After all, if his mammy’s granddaddy had never gone to the New World, Albert would probably be holding the wedding in The Traveller’s Friend or The Welcome Inn with Rodney’s Glory providing the toons.
In just two days in May, both Queen Elizabeth and President Obama will be on these shores, although the more you read about these visits, the shorter they seem to be coming, While we all envisaged a Kennedy-style four -day trip around the country covering everything remotely connected with Amerikay, it now seems that Air Force One might be docked here for shorter than the stopover of the average rendition flight. Not even time for a decent bit of waterboarding.
And then next year, Pope Benedict is said to be due to visit for the International Eucharistic Conference. Is there no end to the arrival of leaders?
I think world leaders like to see us at our humblest, on our knees. When Kennedy came in ‘63, sure half the audience he was talking to were working down there on the docks in Boston — “the Doughertys and Flahertys and Ryans and cousins of yours who have gone to Boston and made good”; when the Pope came in ‘79, sure weren’t we about to embark on the greatest bout of belt tightening we’d ever think we’d see, encouraged by that enigmatic scoundrel Haughey.
So we should be used to it. Let’s go to the cupboard, dust that that old cap and practice doffing it, and tugging the forelock (even thought my forelock near the back of my head at this stage.” We’re back in our rightful place in the world, let’s get excited at the prospect of visiting dignitaries (though not as excited as Sile Seoige ) and practice the Cead Mile Failte.
“Top of the morning to ya your highness, top of the morn...”