Taoiseach leads his merry band to Wall Street

There’s a great scene in the Oscar-nominated short film Pentecost by Irish director Peter McDonald where the local parish priest gives the altar boys an impassioned pep talk before the biggest Mass of their lives.

One of the young lads is implored upon to treat the sanctus bell like a precious instrument, not “a bloody panic alarm”.

“You can’t just pick it up and jingle jangle like a flippin’ fire engine howling through town.”

I’m not sure if Taoiseach Enda Kenny felt the same sort of pressure when his merry band of clapping business leaders took to the balcony overlooking the New York Stock Exchange trading floor for the ceremonial bell yesterday morning, but he needn’t have worried. NYSE has taken the danger out of it and with it has gone any potential for flamboyant experimentation.

It’s just one button now and as it continued to ding and as those around him continued to applaud, Mr Kenny raised two thumbs to the ceiling, smiling widely.

“Look, no hands,” he seemed to say, proving that anything is possible when you have that Irish resolve he has been pitching so energetically around the US this past week.

His oft-repeated mantra (to sum up: Ireland is still little and green and open for business) is bound to get a greater audience than usual when Paddy’s Day rolls around. But no amount of bell-ringing and yahooing could possibly faze the busy traders down on the floor who, as per usual, couldn’t care less. Ever since Snookie and the rest of the Jersey Shore cast were given their moment in the fiscal sun, something about this daily routine has been interminably broken.

What’s more, if a recent New York Times article is anything to go by, this ceremony has even less significance than it ever did. Our increasingly globalised world which is shrinking around our ears has saw to it that many of the poor downtrodden Wall St lackies are starting their shifts at ungodly hours to make sure they’re not blindsided by the markets in Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Speaking of the blind side, former Munster and Ireland flanker Alan Quinlan, here as part of the current American Ireland Fund money drive, was one of the more imposing figures on the balcony, an extra safeguard for the security conscious Financial District where Saturday was coincidentally the six-month anniversary of the Occupy movement, a celebration marred by violence and arrests. Or in other words, the St Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue.

Indeed, Quinlan was almost called into action when, Denis O’Brien, who really should know better, gestured menacingly at Business and Finance publisher Ian Hyland with the ceremonial hammer.

Mercifully, the Taoiseach’s bell-ringing quelled the potential flashpoint and everyone focused on the job at hand: telling the men and women of Wall Street to continue as they were.

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