Daly diatribe - Offensive, ill-judged, contemptible

The comments in the Dáil yesterday by Independent Deputy Clare Daly about the welcome accorded to President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, and their two children — Sasha and Malia — were as offensive and ill-judged as they were contemptible.

Ms Daly accused the media and politicians of “slobbering” over President Obama’s family and she accused the Government of “prostituting” itself and the Taoiseach Enda Kenny of “pimping” Ireland. The Taoiseach responded in a dignified way, dismissing her outrageous comments as disgraceful.

Some politicians, who subscribe to the belief that paper never refused ink, think that there is no such thing as bad publicity. They shoot their mouths off, knowing that the media are sure to report their remarks, if those are considered outrageous.

Such politicians would do well to remember that many of their predecessors learned to their cost that careless, outrageous comments can have dire political consequences. There is a saying in Leinster House that nobody ever talked their way into membership of the Dáil, but many have talked their way out.

For too many years our tourism was hurt by reports of outrages in Northern Ireland. Most of that activity was outside this state, but the island of Ireland is so small in global terms that people abroad inevitably concluded that such violence affected on the whole island. This did enormous damage to our tourism.

President Obama was boosting the peace process in Northern Ireland, but Ms Daly alluded to him as “the hypocrite of the century” for preaching peace to teenagers in Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that his predecessor, Bill Clinton, had an invaluable impact on the peace process in the North.

The Gathering is designed to attract people of Irish ancestry to this country during the summer to provide a much-needed economic boost. We should be profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have Mr Obama, the first black US President, highlight his own Irish ancestry. This has the potential to attract massive international publicity for the Gathering.

Tourism has enormous potential for seasonal employment, especially among young people. Too many of our youth have already been compelled to emigrate, due to economic necessity, without needlessly spurning the chances of providing employment at home. Any vile publicity stunt that detracts from the prospects of the Gathering should be deplored.

In times of strife and economic trouble over the past two centuries, this country has inevitably turned to the US for help. Ms Daly’s fatuous comments were an affront to President Obama and the American people on whose help we have so often depended.

Many Americans may be particularly critical of President Obama, but he is their president, and they expect him to be treated with courtesy and respect by others, especially when he is visiting abroad. That is just good manners.

At this time when we are trying to portray Ireland of the Welcomes, Ms Daly’s diatribe is not just an insult to the Americans; it is an insult to all decent Irish politicians and to the people they represent.

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