An old fashioned chat with Mother Ireland
By: Cormac MacConnell | Published Friday, December 3, 2010, 5:10 AM | Updated Sunday, August 4, 2013, 3:36 AM
"CEAD Mile Failte!”
"For God's sake don't be standing there on the doorstep with a face on you as long as a wet week. Come on inside to the fire and take the weight off your feet.
“Would you like a cup of good tea? Are you driving or walking? If you're walking you're welcome to a shot of something stronger. Come in! Come in!
"Yes, I'm Mrs. Kathleen Ireland. Yes, I'm the old lady you were looking for. No, you don't find me in tears and sackcloth and ashes because it's a bad cold wicked month of November.
“For heaven's sake man I've survived a lot worse than this in my time, a lot worse. Sit down there in the corner and I'll make the tea. Relax for a while. Take that worried look off your face.
" You don't have to tell me who you are you know. I heard you were back in the parish visiting your cousins a few days ago. I know your breed, seed and generation.
“You look the spit of all of them that are still left hereabouts. You are well got around here, not because of yourself but because of those that came before you. And left before you. And had to leave.
“It was five generations ago that your three times great grandfather was transported to Australia for poaching hares in the estate belonging to the De Vere family in the Big House. Out to Van Diemens Land and survived it all, and the family did well afterwards.”
“I know the whole story. I've heard millions of stories like that. I'm an old wise lady at this stage.
"You expected to find me in bits, did you not, because I've been declared a bankrupt and had to be bailed out last Sunday evening? Even though I'm hurt, mostly because the bloody Sassenach is involved in the rescue, I'm far from destroyed. This whole business will soon be water under the bridge of all the centuries I've lived through.
“Take my word for it. I know what I'm talking about.
"This is nothing. I've survived the Danes and the Normans and the English and the Great Famine when millions died behind damp ditches or on coffin ships.
“I've seen my children slaughtered by the tens of thousands or destroyed by disease and ignorance. And still we survived and even thrived.
“Me and mine (and that includes you and all living in what they call the diaspora) have always been poor -- except for about one decade of my lifetime -- and we know how to survive in hardship.
“We were bred into it and born into it and it was always hard for my family. But, with God's help and our own divine madness, we always survived in the end.
"This is nothing on the scale of our history. Has anybody died? Not to my certain knowledge.
“Who is suffering most among my children? It's the fat cats who were the greediest scavengers of all during those strange years they attribute to the Celtic Tiger? It is indeed. I never liked them either.
“My poorest children are suffering, yes, but then they know how to combat suffering because they persisted in electing as their leaders, for whatever reason, some of those fat cats I mentioned earlier. It was always so.
“My children have many faults, God love them, and that is one of the worst. And they will keep doing it too in their next election.
“But if that is one of their faults then one of their virtues is the ability to cope with hard times when they come. And they always come. I've learned that and so have they.
"And even in the Famine they did not lose their songs and their music and their spirit. I'm sure your ancestor sang even in Van Diemen's Land in shackles. He would have been that kind of man.
“You arrive on my street in your fine hired car. He would have been transported out of here with the arse out of his trousers, with nothing.
“But, like me, I bet you have been overdrawn at your bank too in your time. You probably lost at least one job in your time.
“You have probably seen the teeth of the wolf at your door a time or two. It happens to all of us.
“And look at you now with your fine suit and shiny car on the street. We all know about boom and bust. It is the way of the world.
"Look at America, where so many of my children fled in times like these. It is maybe the most powerful nation in the world, but it is suffering fiercely too in these hard times.
“There are as many people unemployed as my entire home population near enough. There are as many houses being repossessed by the bloody bankers as would create another city for me.
“England is only loaning me a few bob now because it is only slightly better off these days and needs my children to be able to buy its products. They are one of her main markets.
"In the thirties of the last century we had an economic war with England. That was hard too. That was the time they coined the phrase here, ‘The man for the boat and the bullock for the road!’
“We had not a bob then either. It was much worse than anything that will happen to us in the next four or five years. My children will not suffer as much this time as they did then.
“And those now heading for the diaspora are far better equipped to face this hard world than those that went before them. And that's for sure.
“When there were signs in the English boarding house windows, ‘No Irish or Blacks.’ That is only like yesterday to a wise old lady like me.
“For sure we will survive this setback. We will still even have a Merry Christmas in 2010.
"I'm talking simple old countrywoman's talk at a time when the economists and politicians are talking about complex stuff like bond yields and market rates and contamination of the eurozone and suchlike. But I'm probably talking more common sense than any of them.
"So have another cup of tea and tell me about your family …”