Tuesday 24 April 2018

Can't have it both ways

John Greene

John Greene

As a small country we have long been obsessed with the world's view of us -- lapping up all the praise that comes our way, bristling collectively at criticism.

So the stories that filtered back from New Zealand last week that the Irish team has become the adopted second team of the rugby-mad locals fed the machine. We love to be loved.

Have you seen our All-Ireland hurling final, we will ask visitors. Have you anything to compare to that back home? What about our golfers? Did you see that one-two-three in St Andrews last Sunday?

And how did your boxers do in Baku? We qualified three for the Olympics. And there's only four million people living here. We really are punching above our weight.

There is a deep-seated national insecurity which sees us constantly craving attention and approval like a giddy child at school longing to get three stars and a pat on the back from the teacher.

So it was appropriate that on day one of the global economic forum in Dublin Castle on Friday, there was a session on Ireland's image abroad. Amid some home truths about our current international reputation -- 'Ireland does not have a bad image in Asia,' said one contributor, 'there is no image' -- there were some more colloquial observations recorded in RTE's coverage of the event.

Rodney Walshe, chairman of a New Zealand-based tourism group, said that the image of Ireland in that country is currently a hugely positive one thanks to the performances of the rugby team. "Most popular team in the country," he said.

And Andy Rogers, who is chair of the Irish Community Group for the Olympic Games in Britain, bemoaned the fact that he cannot watch Gaelic football and hurling matches on RTE's website. (RTE don't have the rights to show GAA games outside Ireland. Those rights are sold separately and currently belong to Setanta.)

Interesting -- if not obvious -- that sport became part of a high-level discussion on Ireland's international reputation. Interesting, too, that only GAA president Christy Cooney from the world of Irish sport was invited to the two-day gathering of nearly 300 people. Apparently, there was no room at the inn.

Remember that when you see images of politicians jostling to get into the picture frame welcoming home the Irish rugby team at Dublin Airport.


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