All eyes are on Ireland as St. Patrick's Day approaches. The Irish Times foreign correspondents around the world asked the locals in Brazil, Britain, Germany, USA, China and France what they think of the Irish.
The correspondent in China, Clifford Coonan, said that despite the fact that the population of Ireland is about one fifth of the population of Beijing (20 million) Ireland holds a very high profile in China.
When he asked the locals to name three things they associate with Ireland uilleann pipes was a recurring answer along with U2, the Irish army, cycling races , the financial crisis, "Riverdance" and The Troubles.
Clifford comments that although "there are plenty of Irish stories, and it’s not all doom, gloom or paddywhackery."
Mark Hennessy said that one year ago the people of Britain had little sympathy for the Irish following their Celtic Tiger spending splurge however as their own financial situation deteriorated they changed their tune. Hennessy explained that by November the British were afraid they too would face outside intervention due to their financial situation.
It seems the British have been seriously impressed with the Irish people's pragmatism in dealing with a difficult situation and also "a degree of Celtic fatalism, that nothing would change, even if the Irish did".
German correspondent Derek Scally described how Munich's city center was shut down last weekend as 25,000 people took part in their St. Patrick's Day parade. He said "Germans’ love of the “Green Isle” is unshakeable". It seems the average German on the street is blissfully unaware of any strained relations between Dublin and Berlin.
The Brazilian correspondent for the Times, Tom Hennighan explained that when the IMF began meeting with the Irish Government it was the lead item on all the news channels. When he returned to Ireland for Christmas many of his middle class acquaintances seemed surprised that Christmas hadn't been cancelled Ireland's situation seemed so dire.
However Hennighan also points out that this is the view of those who are a little better off. When he questions his doorman his response is "I have enough struggles in my own day-to-day life to bother with those of other people far away.”
Lara Marlowe in Washington comments "Election? What Elections?" and says the news hasn't reached the U.S. quite yet. She also used the fact that the New York Times recently referred to Enda Kenny as a female as the perfect example of this.
She says that although they were aware of the Celtic Tiger "The European economic miracle" their focus is now consumed by their own economy and perhaps Egypt and Libya. But of course St. Patrick's Day will be celebrated with its usual parades, Masses and White House meet and greets.
Ruadhan MacCormac begins with "The scenery, the open spaces, the sea, the cold climate. The people have a reputation for being friendly. Everyone knows about St Patrick. And the beer.” This is a run down of what most French seem to associate with the Emerald Isle but it seems that the unfortunate coverage of the economic and political crisis over the last year seems to have raised Ireland's profile.
When asked whether the coverage has change her view on of the interviewees responded by saying "No . . . the crisis is the fault of government and lobbies – big people who have money. The people of Ireland are only paying the consequences. That’s what’s deplorable.”