It’s an interesting line-up tonight at the comedy club on Long Street in Cape Town. First on is an Afrikaaner from Bloemfontein. Then there’s an Irishman with a face and arms as red as a stop light. Following him is a coloured man from Durban, a coloured woman from Cape Town and a Zulu man
In this, our national week, there has been a lot of debate on what it means to be Irish. Our self-image has been battered by almost three years of bad news. As a country we feel like the bad boy in school; a child who, no matter what he does, cannot seem to avoid trouble. When we try to make amends, our efforts to show everyone we are behaving just land us in further strife. None of the other European countries will play with us now. They are all doing Ring-a-Ring-a-Rosy and Ireland is sulking at the edge of the schoolyard driving a small dinky car along the top of a low wall. Even the bond traders – who will play with everyone if the price is right – will not come over for tea. But enough moping! To paraphrase Enda Kenny, the national fightback begins here. And the key to that fightback are facts which should make us feel proud of this little republic as we battle to reassert our place in the world. When you celebrate National Hangover Day – the day after St. Patrick’s Day – here are some reasons to puff out your chest, run back into that school-yard and push one of the smaller kids over. Agriculture and Food 52% of Europe’s crying over spilt milk is done by Irish homeowners. More than half of the world’s slash-hooks are used at Irish weddings, funerals and horse-fairs. Ireland has Europe’s highest percentage of auld lads leaning against a wall, absent-mindedly chewing on a blade of grass while wondering who’s building the new house over in Flaherty’s field. Each Spring day in Ireland, 25,000 items of washing are brought in off the line smelling of slurry. Pharamaceuticals Without the use of the word Viagra, which is made in Ireland, two thirds of jokes told at golf-clubs around the world would have no punchline. They’re probably all on heroin above in Dublin. Competitiveness We’re far more competitive than anyone else. Well, we’re more competitive than you anyway. Langer. Information Technology Among the OECD group of industrialised countries, Ireland has the greatest proportion of elected representatives willing to make a speech about the need to develop cloud computing (and then praying no one asks them what it is). 60% of the world’s snooping on someone else’s wedding photos on Facebook (to see who-he-ended-up-with-in-the end or whether she-wore-THAT-dress-for-like-the-millionth-time-in-a-row) is done on laptops in this country. One in five Irish mothers has a son working in something to do with computers, but she doesn’t know what, exactly. But he must be fairly high up anyway; he was in India last week. Democracy Ireland has more ex-Fianna Fáil TDs than anywhere else in the world. An Irish ballot paper is handled more times than the average dollar-bill. Irish voters have one of the highest turnouts in the developed world and take their constitutional right to always vote for roughly-the-same-again very seriously. Energy A new way of generating energy is speculated about in Ireland – and then rejected because it’s too expensive – every fifteen days. Finance One quarter of the IMF’s entire worrying is done about Ireland. Nineteen of the world’s top twenty finance companies are laughing at us. Entertainment and Culture More whimsical sideways-look-at-life articles are written by male thirtysomething layabouts in this country than in all of the BRIC nations put together. TV3’s show Exposé uses the word FanTAStic more often than the entire population of London. Irish people save up to €3 billion euro per year by “offering it up”. Fade Street contributed more than half of world’s “ye know it’s like…and I’m like..but he’s like” for 2011. 65% of Irish towns have a ‘character’ who always wears a cowboy hat and is called the Yank even though he’s never been to America. He is called the Yank because he’s always talking about John Wayne. Tourism There are 16,000 sign-posts situated just after the &£$%ing junction on Irish roads. Amongst the countries in the European Union, we have the highest proportion of mattresses dumped next to a mediaeval historical site. At any given moment, there are twenty thousand people who “are-not-bein’-racist-but…” Sport EVERYONE remembers Ray Houghton’s goal in Stuttgart. 100% of All Ireland man-of-the-match winners are not concerned about winning the accolade because it’s all about the team performance and there were fifteen lads out there on the pitch today. To the European kids who refuse to play with us: Face facts – this is a great country. In its own way.
In theory, it should be a doddle: Stand-up comedian does short speech to appreciative, relatively sober crowd. The event is a guaranteed stag/hen party-free night and unless things get out of hand, no vaguely humanoid inflatables will be waved about. Any heckling will be good natured and very likely to add to the atmosphere. And
As Fine Gael and Labour circle one another like two something-or-others in some sort of metaphor, the country awaits a new programme for government. It’s probably safe to assume their debates are not focussing on compulsory Leaving Cert Irish. It was one of the few issues during the campaign that actually got people marching but