Friday, May 2, 2008

Let's get ready to rumble!

Bertie was given a heroes welcome. Much like a WWF superhero, Bertie was ushered down the aisles of congress, flanked on both sides by hollers of approval and warm handshakes. Any moment, PaddyThePig half expected him to strip down to his green underpants, flex his muscles, accompanied by a Heavy Metal version of 'Amhran na bhFian' . Nancy Pellosi, speaker of the House, to rapturous applause, got into the spirit of things, and introduced him as 'His Excellency Bertie Aye-hern". The audience obediently provided a standing ovation.

But at least Bertie didn't wear the green tie. The green tie is a secret weapon kept safely under lock and key for the annual St Patrick's day festivities. Yesterday Bertie toned it down, going instead for a nice navy silk number, with a diagonal stripe.

He was clearly relaxed. Here was a man who felt good about himself ; he was like the cat with the cream. The speech started out with the usual camaile about the historical ties between Ireland and the United States. Bertie is good at this. No better man to butter up the Yanks, with a few yarns about how our labourers carried the hod that built America. And sure, why not. We did more than our fair share. But he was laying it on thick.

Bertie : America and Ireland have something that goes beyond a friendship between countries. To be an Irishman among Americans is to be at home. So, Madam Speaker, I stand here before you as a proud son of Ireland. And I stand with you as a steadfast friend of the United States of America.

PaddyThePig was about to reach for the Kleenex, when suddenly Bertie's speech took a surprising diversion. Out of the blue, Bertie stuck his oar in where it was not wanted, and brought up the issue of the illegal Irish immigrant community living in the US. Hardly an appropriate topic for an address to Congress. But it was typical Bertie. There he is on Capitol Hill, with an opportunity to comment on the State of the World, and what does he do? He does an Oliver Twist, and goes begging for more porridge.

Bertie : So we are profoundly aware of those challenges as we ask you to consider the case of our undocumented Irish immigrant community in the United States today. We hope you will be able to find a solution to their plight that would enable them to regularise their status and open to them a path to permanent residency. There is of course a wider issue for Congress to address. And it is your definitive right to address it in line with the interests of the American people. I welcome the wise words of your President when he addressed you on the State of the Union earlier this year and said he hoped to find a sensible and humane way to deal with people here illegally, to resolve a complicated issue in a way that upholds both America's laws and her highest ideals. On this great issue of immigration to both our shores, let us resolve to make the fair and rational choices, the practical and decent decisions, so that in future people will look back and say: They chose well. They did what was right for their country.

Translation : Please allow all illegal Irish immigrants to have US visas. Please give us special treatment. If you give us what we want, you will be given the Bertie Medal of Honour. Please bail us out. Please. Pretty pretty please.

Camouflaged amidst the colourful rhetoric about the so-called unique ties between the two countries (and notice also the flattery aimed at President Bush), this tactic was designed to appease the vocal Irish-American lobby group in the States. It may not go down so well though with the average mover and shaker in Washington political circles, who are not fond of special dispensations to any ethnic group.

Then came the bit about peace in Northern Ireland. This was always going to be the highlight of the speech. And isn't it a great thing! Not even PaddyThePig is twisted enough to attempt to throw cold water on this. It's a great achievement. Bertie, take a bow.

Bertie : This year, in Ireland, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. It was a defining moment in Ireland's history. In the years since then, some doubted that the Agreement would endure. I never did. I knew it would last because it is built on the highest ideals of democracy - the ideals of liberty, of equality, of justice, of friendship and of respect for our fellow men and women.

Above all, the settlement of 1998 will flourish because of one simple and unalterable fact.
It represents the will, democratically expressed, North and South, of all of the people of Ireland to live together in peace and harmony. That is far more powerful than any words of hatred or any weapon of terror.

On St Patrick's Day 2008, a few short weeks ago, I came here to Washington.
I came with a simple and extraordinary message. That great day of hope has dawned.
Our prayer has been answered. Our faith has been rewarded. After so many decades of conflict, I am so proud, Madam Speaker, to be the first Irish leader to inform the United States Congress: Ireland is at peace.

Then came the silly quote. There just had to be one ; it just wouldn't be Bertie otherwise. For once, the boffins in the Department of the Taoiseach slipped up, and allowed this geographical clanger to slip through the cracks.

Bertie : The Atlantic Ocean will always bring Europe and America together. I do not see the Atlantic as something that keeps America and Europe apart.

Mmm. Anway, then came the obligitary quotation from John F Kennedy (didn't see that one coming), and a tribute to the victims of 9/11. PaddyThePig was about to reach for the Kleenex again, when Bertie decided to assume the mantle of a messiah. He softened his voice, and put on his puppydog face. One almost expected a halo to light up around his head.

Bertie : We are all citizens of the world. We must therefore develop a true spirit of global citizenship. This cannot and should not be an alternative to national pride and patriotism, but rather a complement to it. We should care for our planet as much as we care for our country.
We should champion peace, justice and human rights across the globe as well as at home.

Mmm. Given Bertie's permission for hundreds of thousands of US militiary personnel to avail of Shannon airport on their route to the dubious war in Iraq, this all rang a little hollow. And the whole `we must care for the planet`routine is a little tired. Later that evening, Bertie and his officials entertained their US hosts at a lavish banquet in the Irish Embassy. An evening of mickey-stroking and back-slapping paid for by you and me, for which I am sure no expense was spared.

Tonight it all ends, the entourage fly home on the Government jet purchased in 2005 for 20 million bills, which according to Bertie, doesn't have a jacks on board. Now there's a thought. After a night on the tear in Washington, the Irish Cabinet is stranded somewhere high over the Atlantic, clutching their pants, tears in their eyes wailing "Please Bertie, I can't wait. I have to go to the tilit!"

Oink Oink!

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