Spring is springing in the west as sprightly and lively as a young hare in a townland guarded only by slow greyhounds.

The wild black randy rooks are already building their nests in the tracery of treetops etched against the brighter orange evenings. It is getting warmer by the day, our winter is only able to muster a few dying kicks, the cuckoo will be arriving from Africa in about a fortnight to send out her mating calls over a whole new generation of nodding yellow daffodils and, as the green dust of our seasonal celebrations begins to slowly settle I have good news and good advice for all of you wherever you are in this wide and wonderful world.

The fulcrum of these happy tidings is that there has not been a better opportunity to visit Ireland than nowadays for the past decade. The critical factors are both economic and social.

Fundamentally, if you are resident in the U.S., your dollar has strengthened powerfully against the euro in recent months. It is likely to continue to do so for the summer months according to the experts I have been hearing, and so you will get a lot more for your buck this year than before.

That matters hugely when you are on vacation, especially if visiting for the first time. As things are developing these days your spending power in Ireland, not just with the dollar but with the pound sterling and most of the other major currencies, is being enhanced almost by the hour. Check the currency markets for yourselves if you are considering visiting Ireland and you are likely to be delighted by your findings.

But that is just one side of the coin. The other side is the social side and, remarkably, despite the financial statistics, and despite that dramatic slump across Europe of the euro, the truth is that Ireland, though still with a long-term national debt to service, is emerging with great resilience from the pit of the recession, currently, (unbelievably!) has the fastest growing economy in the EC according to official reports, and the national mood heading into the summer is one of optimism and relief that the worst of the austerity era hardships are over, that things are improving, that a rising tide is lifting almost all the battered boats.

There is a mood of craic about the place again. Against all the odds. I can scarcely believe that the current situation has developed inside this timescale.

I honestly do not understand all the implications of international currency movements which create stronger and weaker currencies on the financial markets.

What anyone can see, however, is that in the pit of the recession, with emigration raging like in the bad old days, the news bulletins daily were heavy with reports of job losses, major industry closures and public service cutbacks.

That has now changed quite dramatically. The bulletins are bearing more reports of new job-creation projects, more services expansions, more positive developments of one kind or another.

There are still problems, of course, and drawbacks, and that huge national debt from the death of the Celtic Tiger, but also ample evidence of recovery and hope for the immediate future. We had largely lost that for a while.

I have more good news for those among you contemplating your first trip to the Emerald Isle, and even for those who have visited before.

I last year mentioned lightly here that a new TV channel with a difference had begun broadcasting to the world from a Mayo base. It is called Irish TV, is available globally on Sky Channel 191 and on Freesat 400, and is well worth viewing.

It is a privately funded organization, I have no connection whatever with it, but its strength to me is that it reveals to the world the reality of the modern real rural Ireland which, by and large, has been abandoned by the major RTE national broadcasters headquartered in Dublin, effectively flogging a touristic brand of urban product (with the exception of the Gaeltacht channel TnaG).

The Irish TV programs, raw enough betimes and not laminated and polished like the Dublin species, cover the warp and woof of life as she is lived in the towns and villages and farmlands of what is now often called the Hidden Ireland.

For example, last week I watched the happenings of a farmers' show in Manorhamilton in Co. Leitrim. There was also a fine country music show featuring jivers in a packed ballroom listening to the likes of Daniel O'Donnell and Susan McCann and Mary Duff.

The schedule tends to adopt a county-by-county approach which reflects the craic and jollity of rural living in a way largely abandoned by RTE stations. Catch an hour of it and you will see the truth of what I am saying.

And you will be quite likely to want to visit many of the lively communities whose lives and pastimes and problems too are revealed. Many of them lie along the coastal Wild Atlantic Way which was such a tourist success last year. Check it out.

Finally, with great joy this week a letter came sliding through my Clare letterbox inviting me to return to the Irish Arts Festival in East Durham in the Catskills this July. My daughter Ciara and I had such great craic there last year -- meeting so many of you good folk as well -- that I accepted the invitation like a shot. I would not miss it for the world.

In all fairness that week in Rip Van Winkle country up above New York is so special that (whisper it) it outshines many of the festivals held here at home. I will swear that I never said that on a mile of Bibles!

My upcoming joy in relation to that trip, I suppose, is tempered by the fact that the few euros in my pocket when I arrive will convert into a far smaller wad of dollars than they did last year. I don't really mind at all though because, when you get right down to it, craic is the most vital currency of all.

Watching the west of Ireland based, Irish TV.Cathy Bartholomew