Ireland has challenges, but we should laud progress

I am not sure if Ireland is unique in this regard, but our propensity for negativity and backbiting has to be seen to be believed.

Ireland has challenges, but we should laud progress

The negative misery junkies that dominate a lot of popular discourse in this country will, very quickly, beat anybody who dares put their head above the parapet in a positive manner, down.

We need to appreciate what we do well; value those who are successful, and recognise shortcomings and challenges in a constructive manner.

Earlier this week, the employers’ group Ibec had the temerity to come out and claim that the Irish economy is now doing very well and that we have moved beyond the recovery phase and moved into a period of strong and sustainable growth.

The reaction to this factual analysis of the Irish economy’s current status was quite extraordinary, albeit totally predictable.

We do not like good news and tend to demonise those who present it.

Five or six years ago in the depths of a very difficult economic situation, many people believed that Ireland would never emerge from the hole in which it found itself.

Such a likelihood flies in the face of human nature — the majority of people will just get up and make it happen, which is exactly what has happened.

The progress that Ireland has made over the past five years or so has been truly remarkable and should be lauded.

This is not to suggest for one moment that Ireland still does not have serious problems and that there are still enormous challenges ahead.

These challenges are pretty obvious and include housing, health and the quality and quantity of public services in general.

We must recognise that we simply do not have the resources to solve all of these problems overnight, but perhaps if political players in particular behaved maturely and constructively, we might make more progress.

It is also the case that no country is perfect, but the misery junkies would have one believe that everything in Ireland is worse than every place else.

That is simply not true, but negativity garners headlines.

Representatives of the poverty industry were quick to come out in the aftermath of the Ibec report and claim that Ireland currently has 800,000 people in poverty.

The veracity of this statement depends on one’s definition of poverty. If my income increased by 10% this year, but my neighbour’s increased by 20%, the gap between us will widen and relative poverty will have increased.

For a very small country, Ireland has an amazing ability to produce people who rise to the highest global level in areas from business to the arts to music and much more besides.

However, when they do make it to the top, it seems to be a national past-time to take them down as quickly and as viciously as possible.

The attitude shown by some towards Bob Geldof following his recent principled stance in relation to Myanmar was pretty unedifying but also totally predictable.

Love him or hate him — I am very much in the former category — Mr Geldof has made an enormous contribution to global affairs and music over the past 30 years and should be lauded by a grateful nation. Likewise with Bono.

There is a blood sport out there revolving around denigrating an individual who has sustained world-class status for U2 over more than three decades and who has also made a very positive contribution to global affairs.

He has been a very positive role model.

Last weekend Ireland lost one of its truly international figures, Peter Sutherland.

I would have a certain bias towards Mr Sutherland as I had the privilege of doing a little bit of work for him when he was chairman of AIB.

Apart from the fact that he was a gentleman at every level, his domestic and international achievements were truly extraordinary.

He achieved international respect and admiration, a fact that was clearly demonstrated by the international reaction to his premature passing.

Yet, over the past few days, we have seen the usual begrudgers emerge from their lairs in an effort to denigrate his achievements.

It is time that Ireland got over itself and cast aside the inferiority complex, the begrudgery and the negativity that dominate much discourse in the country.

People like Geldof, Bono and Sutherland should be lauded for helping put Ireland on the international map and not taken down at every opportunity.

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