Eamon Keane: Time to put the doom and gloom to one side and just thank goodness we’re Irish
Do you see light or darkness in this land of ours?
Well open your eyes. Ireland has just been voted the number one country in the world in the Good Country Index.
This list was set up to find which countries contributed most to the planet and the human race. And we came out tops.
Why did we do so well? It’s because of our innate capacity to dig deep within ourselves and help others.
This wasn’t just some bogus magazine survey. The organisers used data from the United Nations and the World Bank, among others.
They had clear measurements for what constituted ‘goodness.’
One yardstick was to look at a country’s Nobel Prize winners for instance. We’ve have a few.
John Hume‘s contribution to peace in the North is a perfect example of what we Irish are so good at.
Think also of the unsung heroes in the Defence Forces who have served on peacekeeping missions around the world. And don’t forget the peacewomen in Northern Ireland, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan.
We have the knack of being able to relate to other world countries and their cultures in volatile situations.
Speaking of culture what about our contribution to the arts? Seamus Heaney, Samuel Beckett, William Butler Yeats and George Bernard Shaw have all won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
But also have a think about our writers like Maeve Binchy and Cecelia Ahern. They may not be favoured by the literati but they have brought joy to countless readers around the world.
The key is that they have added to the human experience – just as Comedian Brendan O’Carroll has. The creator of Mrs Brown’s Boys has lifted a whole nation across the water with his homespun humour. It may not be everyone’s, but it is an awful lot of people’s cup of tea.
Speaking of Britain, our neighbour and perhaps the country we most resemble, only came in seventh in the index.
Another key indicator of a country’s ‘goodness’ is its contribution to humanitarian aid. Irishman Bob Geldof, who has suffered his own share of tragedy over the years, was instrumental in Live Aid.
Live Aid created a huge awareness that there was a Continent lying destitute and barren with millions suffering.
Think about aid agencies like Trocaire and their contribution. Where did they get the money? From you! It is incredible that even in deepest recession we are able to dig deep and give.
The Irish understand Famine. We all have relatives going back who knew what it was like to see people starve to death. It left a bad legacy of shame but also a positive one in that we are aware of what it is like to suffer.
This sense of connectedness to others has shot us up the ‘goodness’ list.
One of the organisers, international policy advisor Simon Anholt, said some countries were “behaving as if they were islands, disconnected from the rest of the world”.
Unlike Ireland he believed these countries acted as solo operators. “We live in an age where the impacts of everything we do are always felt around the world, and we need to start taking responsibility for those impacts.”
So lets all walk a bit taller? We’ve been battered by the Troika. We’re still reeling from sins of the past, like the abhorrent treatment of unmarried mothers.
But, like every other country on the planet we too have our good side. A side so bright and decent that we’re ranked number one in the world.
In the past we’ve been quick to linger over the darkness. Isn’t it time we saw the light?