Paean from the other side of the pond

On the Edge

On The Edge
Áine Ryan

BECAUSE we are an island nation and tend towards ethnocentrism – come on, we do –  it is refreshing to examine how we are viewed from abroad, particularly from across the pond. So it was rather uplifting to read a recent Guardian editorial that was effusive in its praise of this former colony of Great Britain while caricaturing its own onetime imperial superpower as a ‘divided, tragi-comic’ sovereign state led by ‘Boris Johnson’s sloppy and incontinent imagination’.
In this paean, the writer opines that there are three primary reasons why our little emerald republic is punching above its weight on the European and world stage. The first one cited was the recent consigning of civil-war politics to history’s graveyard through the formation of our new Government. The editorial observes that up until now, the pro-treaty – Anglo Irish Treaty 1921 –  Fine Gael had never been willing to share power with the anti-treaty Fianna Fáil, but that now, with the support of the Greens, the ‘unthinkable’ seems ‘inevitable’.     
The second plank of the argument relates to how we have dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic in comparison to Boris Johnson.
Interestingly, the writer argues that before Brexit we may have followed the British line – like the good little doffing-the-cap-m’lord supplicants we used to be – but Britain’s ‘shambolic’ response to the pandemic compounded by the arrogance of its ‘exceptionalism’ has left Ireland following the WHO advice adopted by the majority of European countries. It is important to note that this editorial distinguishes throughout between the policies of England and those of Scotland and Wales. Indeed, the writer suggests that Johnson’s actions may expedite and empower the independence movement in Scotland.     
“Like Scotland and Wales, Ireland has steered a different and wiser course. None has had an easy pandemic, Ireland included. But Dublin has watched what is happening in Europe and followed WHO advice. The upshot is a coronavirus death rate that is half Britain’s.”
Praising Fine Gael’s stewardship of the pandemic under the leadership of Leo Varadkar, and his party’s rise in the polls, the third part of the argument states: “Unlike Brexit-deluded Britain, 21st-century Ireland is a firm believer in multilateral institutions and cooperation. Ireland’s influence over the EU’s Brexit stance is immense. Its EU commissioner, Phil Hogan, has the crucial trade portfolio. Ireland’s finance minister, Paschal Donohoe, has just become president of the Eurogroup of finance ministers. Last month, Ireland beat Canada to a seat on the UN security council.”
And the icing on the cake comes from a quoted comment in the prestigious magazine, the Economist: “On a per-head basis, Ireland has a good claim to be the world’s most diplomatically powerful country.”
Which brings this Mayo News columnist back to the prescient words of our former  Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Remember when he was  out on the campaign trail in 2011 he said that by 2016 Ireland would be ‘the best small country in the world in which to do business’. While this aspiration has gone down in the annals of aphorisms associated with Kenny, isn’t it reassuring how this Guardian editorial effectively confirms his prediction, albeit in the middle of a pandemic and a time of global uncertainty?
For once, On the Edge will ignore such embarrassments as the Barry Cowen debacle and the fact that Mícheál Martin had egg on his face over initially failing to appoint a senior minister along the western seaboard. Or, moreover, that Sinn Féin is licking its lips on the Opposition benches for a guerrilla warfare of words over the coming months. For once let’s luxuriate in the successes of our political leaders and their growing maturity and influence on the world stage.