Mr Rooney, a few tips to help you settle in
With his values, money and culture, the new US ambassador might feel out of place here, writes ANN MARIE HOURIHANE.
DEAR AMBASSADOR Rooney,
Hope you are well. We are well. Bono is well. The rugby team is tip-top. Only, Ambassador Rooney, the economy isn’t too well. Not looking the best, as they say. But you’ll see for yourself when you get here.
Congratulations on your appointment! We are absolutely delighted that you are our new ambassador from the United States! And how lucky are you? Think about it, Mr Ambassador, you could have been sent to Paris, or to London, or to Rome, or to any one of those soulless and anonymous cities where they don’t know how to enjoy life. We’re thrilled for you. We’re thrilled for ourselves as well, because we hear that you are a good guy, much respected at home. And also because you’re so well got with President Obama, thank God. In our eyes you are virtually a Kennedy.
And we know that you and your family have loved this country for two generations, which is more than we have managed ourselves. Consequently you are pretty well-informed about our complex, internationally recognised and award-winning culture. The literary prize you so kindly donated has worked great, so far.
We also realise that you are a practising Christian millionaire, with a strong record on public service. All of these things might make you feel a little out place round here, so we’ve jotted down a couple of handy hints to help with your move to Ireland.
First of all, Irish Management. Mr Ambassador, we gather that you live quite close to the home of your football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and often walk the 10-minute journey to the ground. We have even heard that you do not have a designated parking space at the Steelers’ stadium. Can either of these two rumours be true? If so, Mr Ambassador, we can only emphasise that such behaviour will make you very conspicuous here. An Irish executive never walks when he can be driven in a limousine. In the good times he attended most sporting fixtures via helicopter. Over here low-key, democratic management style denotes being a loser.
Dublin: You will be getting one of the very few houses in Dublin which has not fallen in value by roughly 50 per cent. But as you are a foreigner, and also because you do not own that lovely house, we will let you away with it.
Dubliners are an endearingly cranky lot, and always have been. Samuel Beckett, one of our innumerable Nobel Laureates, wrote: “This tired, abstract anger – inarticulate passive opposition – always the same thing in Dublin.” Mr Ambassador, as a literary man you will recognise that this still pertinent insight comes from Samuel Beckett’s recently published collected letters. But you have to understand that most Irish people have simply been too busy to read Beckett’s letters, or his novels, or his plays. I gleaned that pertinent insight from last Wednesday’s Irish Daily Mail. Which brings us to . . .
The Media. The Irish media is based in Dublin and never leaves it. The Irish media prefers the darker side of the street in all matters, except, until very recently, in the reporting of economic news. Aren’t we gas?
Roughly speaking, the newspapers agree on everything, and are kind of hard to tell apart. You can break them down like this: The Irish Timescontains what people think they should be thinking. The Irish Independentcontains what people would be thinking, if they thought about it. The Irish Examinercontains what people in the south of the country are thinking – but those people are rather confused.
Th e Irish Daily Mailcontains what people are ashamed to be thinking. And the Evening Heraldhas never had a thought in its life; although it does sometimes argue that the whole population should be interned without trial.
The radio stations are indistinguishable from each other. Television stations ditto: they all show American and British drama and comedy series, constantly. People who want to see Ireland on TV have to watch a programme called Nationwide.
Shannon: People may approach you from time to time to argue about Shannon. Please don’t be concerned. These people will not be objecting to the use of Shannon airport for the transport of US troops to Iraq, or to the way rendition planes refuelled there. No, the people will be arguing about the restoration of the Shannon stop-over, which is never coming back. This is not America’s fault.
On the other hand, we gather that in your home country, even before your endorsement of Obama, you were known as a Rino (Republican in Name Only). In which case you will feel right at home here. Surprisingly, Ireland is a bit of a Rino sanctuary.
Immigration: Irish people want the right to live and work and have their children in America, and want those children to be American citizens. Irish people do not want the children born in Ireland to the people who come to live and work here to have Irish citizenship. It’s perfectly simple.
Must close now, Ambassador, and sign off with that traditional Celtic greeting – céad míle fáilte. That’s one hundred thousand welcomes; if you could bring a job for each one it would be a start.