WE might be an island out in the middle of nowhere with a reputation for heavy drinking and terrible financial management. It's mainly freezing and damp. Our national food might look like an oil slick with bits of squirrel and a few carrots in it; our national drink is the same colour as tar -- but for some reason, for some time now, the Americans have liked to come see us.
And when they come, we, in turn, like to show them a good time. Do up the front room, get in a nice piece of ham, show them round the town.
In the simplest of terms, maybe that's what The Gathering is actually about and isn't, in fact, a scam as suggested by Gabriel Byrne in his recent Today FM interview. Of course the aim of the initiative is economic benefit, but I have a funny feeling that the Americans, the English, the Aussies, the Dutch -- all of the famous diaspora -- are well aware of that. After all, if a tourism initiative is a "shakedown", then Ireland's been dodgier than an email from a Nigerian prince in search of a sort code for some decades now.
We love Gabriel Byrne -- he's one of our greatest talents. He is an erudite, passionate speaker and a sincere, intelligent man. But with his cynical remarks about The Gathering he's come across like a bit of a grump.
We all know that mixing business -- politics -- with pleasure -- acting and entertaining -- is tricky, but it's unfortunately a tried and tested cocktail. However, just because people like Bono and The Boss are masters at combining their celebrity with their chosen good causes, does that mean that it's universal that using celebrity appeal as a platform to expound a more serious agenda is A Good Thing? The American presidential election has shown us some humdinging examples of why it isn't. How crossing over can, in fact, make some people look downright stupid.
Take Donald Trump. Coiner of the phrase "You're fired", billionaire business magnate, wig-wearer. Failed politician. Calling for "revolution"? Urging Americans to march on Washington in protest at the "disgusting injustice" of Obama's re-election?
Clint Eastwood -- the original grizzled cowboy, former Mayor of Carmel, California, Oscar-winning director and actor. Dirty Blummin' Harry. Ranting at an empty chair in the name of his politics?
Meat Loaf. Wailing his way through 'America The Brave' at a Republican rally in Ohio. An experience so cringeworthy that even Mitt Romney looked as mortified as Fr Dougal in an underwear department by the end.
It works both ways, of course. Some politicians might be well advised to steer clear of 'entertainment', too -- working MP Nadine Dorries's decision to jet off to the jungle to snack on animal bottoms in this year's 'I'm A Celebrity. . . Get Me Out Of Here!' seems to be going down as well as witchetty grub sandwiches in the UK at present. And heaven knows we were filled with respect for George 'Would You Like Me To Be The Cat?' Galloway after his stint on ' Celebrity Big Brother'.
Celebs, thesps, stars of stage and screen. For your own sakes, maybe it's time to stick to what you're good at unless you have something really really important to say and are very, very good at saying it? And even if you're sure you are, then maybe think again and possibly just check with someone else first to make sure? We won't think any less of you for not having a 'cause', we promise.
And politicians, policy-makers and those who govern -- please, think long and hard before so much as whipping out a guitar at a house party. After all, the country's in a bad enough state without the fear of Jedward suddenly demanding immediate policy on saving our indigenous forests, or a hopeful Enda himself being the sight that greets Bressie when he swivels his chair round on 'The Voice'.
So in the words of the smallest and most iconic Irish celeb -- who knows his place -- whom we love and still respect, can everyone please put everything back in its box?
Sometimes things are just that bit better with a lid on them.