No more Celtic Tiger but most Irish seem unfazed --global success story never rang true for many anyway


Dublin: If you thought the Irish were overwhelmed and utterly focused on their economic crisis this week you would be mistaken.

Every major newspaper here on Sunday led not with the crisis, but the fact that radio shock jock Gerry Ryan had cocaine in his system when he was found dead last April.

While important news, it was hardly the stuff of wall to wall coverage but then the Irish were probably thankful for the diversion from the grim economic tidings.

Even the quality newspapers devoted page after page to Ryan despite a looming general election and continuing speculation about the IMF bailout and what it means.

If you had dropped in from outer space you might have wondered why was this Ryan man so important.

The answer is when it comes to bread or circus, the Irish prefer the circus for now thank you very much.

Meanwhile, life in Dublin goes on with a merry twinkle despite the hard times. A thaw in the recent harsh weather brought tens of thousands of them onto the streets on Sunday, not demonstrating but shopping.

The children lining up to see Santa and some Christmas animals outside the Mansion House in Dublin, home of the Lord Mayor, luckily didn't overhear the remark of one passer by.

"Look at that donkey" he said, pointing to the little animal shivering in the stable." He's perfect. We make an ass of ourselves and now the Lord Mayor has decided to show off his ass."

It was classic Dublin wit but with a grain of truth. This Christmas the Irish are feeling somewhat foolish as they survey the wreckage of what Queen Elizabeth would surely call an "Annus Horribilis"

But despite all the bad news I can report there is life in the old Emerald Isle yet. Grafton Street, the main shopping thoroughfare was thronged, the bookstores were crowded and a Christmas spirit like only the Irish can whip up prevailed.

My friend an eminent journalist has a theory. "we're not happy being happy, we're not happy being successful" he said.

"For eight hundred years and all that we had tyranny and jackboot and failed rebellions. Then we had a few happy years, but this is much more like our natural state."

He may be on to something. Many here remark on the lack of protest, no general strikes like in Greece, when the IMF moved in, no student riots like in England when the college fees went up.

The Irish seem happy enough in their bad fortune. That sounds like a paradox, but if you know the Irish psyche, whether it is the history of martyrdom, the powerful psychic appeal of such heroes, of defeat snatched from victory's jaws then it is not surprising.

There is the general expectation that as Daniel Patrick Moynihan once remarked, "To be Irish is to know the world will break your heart."

That is not to say that there is no anger, there is a deep and abiding loathing of banker's politicians, developers and everyone else who caused this mess.

But there is also a serenity which comes with the DNA and the realization that Murphy's Law has won out.

A political friend told me a recent focus group he observed just wanted to know one thing. "Is all the bad news out and if so, then let's get on with it."

That is the Irish way, pragmatic stoicism for want of a better term. The Celtic Tiger has become the abandoned cub, and in it's place is a bear-like depression.

Yet the Irish soldier on. The Grafton Street lights blink brighter than ever, the street buskers sing of a "Nation Once Again." and the nation hobbles forward.

Lead kindly light amid the encircling gloom as the psalm says

These are "no mean people" these Irish as Yeats once remarked.

He got that right.

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