The New York Times has a long-standing slogan that declares its mission to publish “all the news that’s fit to print”.
Created in 1897, it still appears on the masthead of the newspaper.
It is a pity the newspaper’s editors did not keep that in mind when they published a column by economist Paul Krugman entitled ‘Yellen’s New Alliance Against Leprechauns’.
“So let me tell you about Apple and the leprechauns,” Krugman, who won a Nobel prize for economics, wrote in reference to Ireland’s corporate tax regime.
The Irish ambassador to the US, Daniel Mulhall, has described the use of the word “leprechaun” by the economist as an “unacceptable slur”. This is not the first time the columnist has used the word when referring to Ireland.
Had he made similar comments directed at African-Americans he would have been derided as racist. If his target was Israel, he would have been denounced as antisemitic.
His excuse is that “the Irish have a sense of humour”. He is correct in that, and we can assure him that we would laugh heartily if he actually writes or says anything remotely humorous.
Challenging Mr Krugman does not mean the Irish or its US ambassador are particularly thin-skinned. We can laugh at ourselves and take a ribbing from others. But a repeated lazy catchphrase can do us real harm, particularly when it is hopelessly out of date. It also distracts from the importance of having a serious debate on global tax issues.
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