Obama: Ireland, beer and big gestures…

Well, he might have said he was only here for the beer… It was well done though. Head to Moneygall first, have a strangely knowledgeable conversation with bar man about how Guinness doesn’t travel, the importance of the man who keeps it well and have Michelle set up a free one for the local PP, and then pay the bar bill!

In the US’s collective imagination Ireland signifies gregarious beer drinkers, which is generally the kind of thing respectable middle America likes to quaintly celebrate but not indulge in itself. The west coast coffee house is rapidly displacing the east coast pub as the signal focus for social exchange of US society. A switch from ‘Cheers’ to ‘Friends’, if you like. Moneygall’s stage Irish show should remind Americans of their slightly dishevelled but highly social origins in whichever part of the old world they came from.

All of which is great optics to the US market for their professorially aloof Brahmin president. Like some big blockbuster blowing into town and then blowing out again, the opener had more to do with next year’s general election in the US than it did for Ireland. The humble house in the main street at Moneygall a nice contrast to the President’s historic academic connections with Trinity, through a Protestant ancestor with what we in Northern Ireland would generally see as a ‘Catholic’ name who (like his more famous and more successful contemporary Edmund Burke) seemed to rather well for himself at the time.

Presumably this was one reason why Obama wanted to make his speech in College Green (Croke Park looked little too like Soldier Field). Though it was noticeable that the backdrop was the old Irish Parliament building, where Henry Grattan intoned in his last speech:

“The constitution may for a time seem lost. The character of the country cannot be lost. The ministers of the Crown will find that it is not so easy to put down for ever an ancient and respectable nation by abilities, however great, and by power and corruption, however irresistible. Liberty may repair her golden beam, and with redoubled heat animate the country.”

And Obama’s preacherly version:

…if anybody ever tells you that your problems are too big, or your challenges are too great, that we can’t do something, that we shouldn’t even try — think about all that we’ve done together. Remember that whatever hardships the winter may bring, springtime is always just around the corner.

So what of the politics? Well there wasn’t much. Keep messages: don’t give on Corporation Tax to the Germans and French (hot topic that one amongst DC’s corporate lobby); and don’t ask me about special rights for Irish illegals. On the upside the International Fund for Ireland may have its sentence commuted courtesy of the endless campaign of GOP Rep Pete King.

Christine Odone found the whole theatrics way too much, but there’s not much chance many outside the hard core diaspora will take much notice of this visit beyond Paddy’s green shamrock shores… The middle east and the global debt crisis is where it is at for the US just now…

And as Fionnan notes in the Irish Independent today, “it won’t cut bailout interest rate”…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty