WHAT THE IRISH ARE LIKE: BY A GERMAN

 

Everything seems to be a commodity these days: the country, ourselves the in habitants. Or so you could conclude from much tourist talk on "relaunching Ireland as a brand." Tourism Brand Ireland. Matt McNulty, Director-General of Bord Failte was saying that the concept is to sell the idea of the emotional experience of an Irish holiday, and hope that the tourists may come back. Roughly that.

Ralph Giordano, a German writer, went on about something like this in his recent Irisches Tagebuch (Irish Diary). Mostly very appreciative, little criticism - you could complain about. That great weather machine the Atlantic, he wrote, brings a magic purity of air, which we (Germans) could only dream of. On the other hand, the groundwater is endangered and likewise many lakes. He fears for the influx of the modern with its levelling technology, but at the same time has a great confidence in the steadfastness of the Irish character, even though it has its marginal deficiencies.

He finds something indestructible in the spirit of the people. Something he had felt on his first visit here 25 years before - but never so strongly as on this occasion. (His book appeared in 1996). In his travels around the world he has been astonished now and then to meet with genuine humanity, because it was a typical. In Ireland, on the other hand, he became accustomed to it, as typical. How is it, he asks, that a people which has been so cruelly treated as the Irish, have retained so much sensitivity, so much readiness to listen, to communicate, to give advice and to maintain an indestructible sense of humour.

He says he is not suppressing the fact that here, as every where, there are rubbers, murderers, sexual offenders, political gangsters and unreasonable priests and hostile denominationalism. And for all the criticism, he tells us, Ireland is still a place to be praised, a place to be enraptured with, to be marvelled at, and to be loved! There. We couldn't do better ourselves.

And this is not a Bord Failte copy writer, just the author of a travel book written in German, primarily for Germans. You may remember his being quoted here a few weeks ago when he caught his first fish ever - a trout on Lough Sheelin. And just after that, same outing, another trout. That would put anyone a-good mood.