Enda tries to sing our praises on hallowed ground
FOUR lads were methodically and slowly pushing lawnmowers in ruler-straight lines up and down the Croker pitch yesterday morning.
It looked absolutely pristine; a smooth, gleaming sward of vivid emerald green, the perfect surface unsullied by boot, football or sliotar.
Meanwhile inside the stadium, the Taoiseach was sporting his metaphorical green jersey at a business conference. (The actual green jersey is, of course, the rightful property of our most ardent patriot Seanie FitzPatrick, last seen representing his country in a five-star hotel in Poznan.)
Enda was in Croke Park to deliver a speech to the Asia Pacific-Ireland Business Forum's 500 delegates.
Cannily, the group has tapped into the sprawling GAA global network and it hosts a business-related event at the annual Asian GAA Games every year in whatever city they are taking place -- this year, the gathering is in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on October 25.
And it's fitting that yesterday's forum should take place in the GAA HQ, given that the Croker turf was beamed into households all across China last February when the bemused Chinese nation watched their vice-president Xi Jinping making a decent fist of taking a puck and booting a ball down the pitch when he toured the stadium during his state visit.
"You are actually on what we call sacred ground here in this edifice," the Taoiseach told the delegates, as he launched into a bout of cheerleading for Team Enda.
"When the Government I lead was elected last year there were a number of top priorities: to rescue the national economy, revive our national spirit and our sense of pride in ourselves, and to restore our reputation as a country internationally as a top destination for business, for investment and for tourism," he said.
"These were enormous challenges, and yet in 15 months we've moved a long way towards achieving those objectives."
He also spoke about his own visit to China in March.
"I found it quite extraordinary that the question that was being asked by the vice-president was, 'how do you build that sense of community of your small country, in a country with the largest population in the world?'-- and yet here in this very place is the essence of what community in Ireland means," he told his audience.
And, as is his wont, he was eager to accentuate the meagre stash of positives in the economy. Enda focused on some of the successful aspects of Ireland (wisely he didn't mention the relentlessly wojus weather), particularly on the star pupil of the export market, the food and gargle industry.
"The increased sales of Jameson whiskey went up 750pc since 1988, with over three-and-a-half million cases being sold internationally this year, which is enormous," he declared.
God bless Jemmy.