IT'S hard to know what to say of 'Time' magazine's decision to put Enda Kenny on the front cover. After all, one doesn't want to be seen to be a begrudger, a word that is so meaningless to American-inspired software that my IBM computer angrily underlines it in red, declaring it not to exist.
Quite so: the concept of begrudgery really has little or no meaning to Americans, who so often seem optimistic and upbeat -- originally an American term, naturally -- to the point of certifiable insanity.
But still and all: Enda Kenny on the front page of 'Time' as the architect of the comeback of the Celtic Tiger? Of course, we tend to think that people in big organisations, especially if they're American, know better than we do.
But remember: just because a celebrity appears to be intelligent doesn't mean that he always knows what he's talking about. The late Gore Vidal, speaking -- in that knowing way of his -- about British Intelligence services, once referred to the many communist spies in M15, yes, M-Fifteen, as if it were a motorway.
Perhaps there were lots of Soviet agents in the Newport Pagnell service station, but that's not quite the same thing as Philby, Burgess and Maclean.
Now, I don't pay enough attention to know how many deluded front covers 'Time' has had in its history. Maybe it's the norm to be wayward. No doubt Mick Jagger was once hailed as the next Pope, Joan Collins was feted as the world's first female sumo wrestler and Angela Merkel and Silvio Berlusconi were celebrated as the most sublime Olympic gymnastics double-act since Ronnie and Olga Corbett.
Had 'Time' even heard of Enda Kenny before last week? Did they light on him because they thought that Enda was a woman's name.
"Hey, isn't that fantastic? Ireland had that female president, Mary McRobinson, and now it's got a woman prime minister. What's that? It's not a she, but a he? But Enda ends in 'a', which makes it a female name, so what you're saying is that Enda Kenny is the world's first transgender prime minister? That's pretty cool, eh? Sounds like a great front cover to me. And next week: whaddaya say to having another transgender cover: Kate Middlesex -- the name says it all -- Britain's first Quing?"
So just how long did the expert team from 'Time' stay in Ireland? Just long enough for a taxi ride to and from Dublin Airport while their trans-Atlantic Boeing was being refuelled? A little bit longer might have told them that this is a very odd country indeed.
For example, that the National Children's Hospital, planning for which started shortly after the Famine, is probably now going to be based on the James Connolly Hospital. How extraordinary, to name a hospital after the bloodthirsty Marxist lunatic who gave his 14-year-old son a gun to kill his compatriots and who, far from wanting an end to the First World War, wanted to re-arrange it on class lines.
Every other country looks at the revolutionary madmen from that period -- the Lenins, the Hitlers, the Mussolinis, the Trotskys, the Maos -- with horror and regret. But not in Ireland, where we still revere the dead-eyed men with chainsaws.
Did the 'Time' team read a single newspaper while they were here? Did they discover that Enda Kenny is paid more than the President of the USA? Or that a TD is paid more than Congressmen or women? Did they read how our public service has the highest pay for the shortest working week of any in Europe?
DID they read any of the cute stuff? Did they discover about Enniscorthy's current plans to raise a memorial to a local IRA man who blew himself up on his way to bomb a Remembrance Sunday service 60 years ago?
Did they read about yet another public expression of the adolescent, historically-ignorant emoting that often passes for principle in this country, namely Galway's plans to raise a memorial to that serial murderer Che Guevara?
Did they read of how an IRA gang took over an entire Dublin housing estate in order to mount a paramilitary funeral, complete with volleys of shots, while the forces of the State looked abjectly on, oh no, not two decades ago, but just the other day?
Did they read of the 16,000 people who have been waiting for FOUR YEARS for a hospital appointment?
Now, of course, this is not all solely Enda Kenny's fault; but he is the leader of a government that seems like a ship without a rudder or an engine or a sail or a single unifying domestic principle.
But by God, the vessel has a crew that demands to be paid, and paid it faithfully is, on borrowed money.
Ireland will still be servicing that loan in 50 years, when 'Time' is just a memory and today's debts will continue to weigh like an anvil on a generation yet to be born in the King Herod Wing, James Connolly Memorial Children's Hospital, Dublin.