Monday 5 December 2016

Reporters fail to see the colour of our Moneygall

Obama in Ireland (Sky News)
All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (BBC2)

Published 29/05/2011 | 05:00

'Live Moneygall" -- this was the legend at the top left of the Sky News screen. "Live Moneygall" -- for Paddy at home and abroad, for so many hours last Monday, these were the two most terrifying words in the English language.

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"Live Moneygall" -- even now that we know everything turned out just fine, these words come back to us in the dead of night, infesting our sleep with unquiet dreams.

But we did it, somehow. We kept the main man alive for the best part of that long, long day, and if there was a heart-stopping moment, it was that scene with The Beast at the US embassy -- so, officially, it happened on American soil.

But even under this most intense examination, a few things went unnoticed by the reporters.

We have heard much, for example, about Obama drinking a pint of Guinness, and very little about the fact that in the space of about 10 seconds in Ollie Hayes' pub, he managed to destroy the Guinness brand for ever in the United States.

Yes, it was a white-knuckle ride for all of us, but especially for those Guinness executives, who would have been ecstatically high-fiving each other as the president raised the pint of porter to his lips, but then being reduced to gibbering despair a moment later as he claimed that we're keeping all the good stuff over here.

The margins are very thin at the top of the world. And the work, it has to be said, is very hard.

For the past fortnight, we have been watching the queen and the president doing their public duties, and we have formed the view, probably for the first time in our lives, that no money would pay you for that sort of thing.

Indeed, the folks in Moneygall were so happy that it was all over, and that they had acquitted themselves so well, even before the choppers had risen above the fields, they could be seen piling into Ollie Hayes' to celebrate.

It was a scene straight out of The Quiet Man, but again, though it could clearly be seen on our screens -- which were still bearing the dreaded words "Live Moneygall" -- it seemed to escape the attention of thousands of reporters.

No doubt, there are times when Obama longs to release all the tensions of the day by rolling into some friendly bar and downing 14 or 15 pints, but he had many miles to go before he could sleep -- and before we could sleep.

At College Green, the political correspondents showed that they can match anyone in their lack of observational skills, when it took them about 18 hours to figure out that Enda Kenny in his speech had echoed some lines originally spoken by Obama.

As it happened, I thought that this was quite a sophisticated device, but apparently it was too much for the political class, which began a numbskull debate on "plagiarism", unable to cope with Enda's nuances -- and let's face it, if you can't cope with Enda's nuances, then the whole concept of the nuance is probably not for you.

BUT there is something else which seems to have gone entirely unnoticed, by everyone.

It was mentioned in passing that George W Bush was one of the US presidents who visited Ireland. But can anyone remember this?

Apparently, it happened some time around the middle of the last decade, but I for one have no recollection of it.

I suppose at the time he was just one of many leaders from much poorer countries who came over here to ask us "how we did it". But I have spoken to several people about this -- people who take a keen interest in current affairs -- and none of them remembers anything about it either.

It can be your exercise for the day -- can you recall something, anything, about George W Bush in Ireland?

And I have another exercise for you, which you will enjoy.

I am going to quote a statement by Alan Greenspan, former head of the Fed, about how his entire philosophy was proved wrong, resulting in the destruction of the Western world.

I was reminded of it by a BBC documentary entitled All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. And I'd like you to read this statement a few times -- as many times as you like -- because it is strangely wonderful, and endlessly sad. It goes like this:

"I discovered a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works."

Ah, there's always a flaw, isn't there? Even when you've discovered the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, and you have a brain as big as Greenspan's, there's always a flaw. And nobody noticed it, until it cost about a billion zillion dollars.

Some flaw ...

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