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Ireland's politicians should take cue from Obama: less blaming, more recovery

With elections approaching, Ireland’s leaders need to put the blame-game for the Celtic Tiger's downfall in the attic for now, and get on with the business of recovery. A debt-laden Ireland – and the European countries that bailed it out – require it.

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In his State of the Union address last month, Mr. Obama offered Americans the type of direction that departing Prime Minister Brian Cowen should have been suggesting to the Irish people months ago. “We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics,” Obama said.

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Further on, he delivered a line that Irish voters might easily interpret as a rebuke to their own legislators, who use the national assembly as a private sparring ring, tossing witless jabs across the chamber at one another. “Instead of refighting the battles of the last two years, let’s fix what needs fixing and move forward,” Obama said.

Put the blame-game in the attic...for now

This is not the president at his oratorical best, but the message is clear enough for Irish parliamentarians of every stripe to understand: They need to “get over themselves” and consent to some multilateral forgetfulness in order to deal with the massive economic crisis now facing their country.

Of course, Russell Baker was wise enough, back in 1973, to see that absolute forgetfulness wasn’t an option. “The great forgetting [of Vietnam] wouldn’t be forever,” he wrote. “The attic isn’t for things we want to forget forever. Later…we will go up there and examine this and that on the chance that it will tell us something about who we were once, what sort of times we lived through, what kind of people we have become.”

In Ireland, this societal self-examination will be a relatively easy exercise, given our recent experience with the many inquiries and commissions empowered to investigate various unsavory episodes in Irish life, such as dodgy payments to politicians and child sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

The past holds sway here much more firmly than in other countries. So unless Ireland ceases its internal bickering and agrees to "a great forgetting" about the Celtic Tiger era and its disastrous fallout, I see nothing ahead but the same old story. And I fear that the 70-million strong worldwide Irish diaspora will be one of the few growth industries to emerge out of the coming election.

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The lesson here is clear: Ireland’s leaders need to put the blame-game in the attic for now, and get on with the business of recovery. The country – and the Continent – demands it.

Boston native Steve Coronella has lived in Ireland since 1992. He is the author of “This Thought’s On Me: A Boston Guy Reflects on Leaving the Hub, Becoming a Dub & Other Topics.”


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