“A little scepticism is undoubtedly a good thing..”

In the Irish Times, out-going US ambassador to Ireland, Thomas Foley, says goodbye with humour, and some sharp observations.

MOST THINGS about my two years and three months in Ireland have been fabulous, but I do have a complaint which I have been hesitant to discuss until now. I will get to it in a moment. Before arriving in Ireland, I set a goal for my stay here. I set it low so I would have a good chance of succeeding. The goal was under no circumstances to allow war to break out between Ireland and the United States on my watch. With only one day to go, it looks as if I will succeed, surprising most of my best friends at home.

A couple of those sharp observations

I notice a much higher level of cynicism here toward your most important institutions and leaders than I am used to in the US. Gratuitous criticism is accepted as good sport in Ireland. The media are some of the most enthusiastic participants.

A little scepticism is undoubtedly a good thing, but institutions and leaders perform better and can deliver more when they are believed in and held in high esteem. In the past, when Ireland and its institutions were not run by the Irish, an elevated cynicism might have been understandable. It is more difficult to understand today.

Ireland’s neutrality seems out of sync with Ireland’s culture and temperament. For reasons that made sense at the time, Ireland didn’t choose to enter into an alliance with Britain during the second World War. There was no historical or cultural precedent for Ireland’s neutrality – it was merely circumstantial.

Circumstances having changed, and yet, acceptance of neutrality as a long-term policy persists. Some here interpret neutrality as pacifism, which shares even less with Irish history. Does this make sense? Small countries benefit most from alliances.

Go read the whole thing.

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