There is a hilarious short scene in an old Simpsons episode where Bart is interviewing Homer for a school project. ‘Dad’, asks Bart, ‘do you wear boxers or briefs?’ The assumption is of course that every man wears one or the other. Homer looks into his pants and says ‘no’.
I use this reference by way of introduction due to a text message that I received from somebody in Ireland yesterday. It read: ‘How is Ireland – in its current state – viewed by your average Canadian and also by the press?’. The assumption in this instance is that the press here actually has a view of Ireland. But it does not.
On the Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen, National Post and Toronto Star websites, only one article dealing primarily with Irish political, economic or social life was published during the last week and a half. Other than that, the only Ireland-related articles were on the plane crash in Cork airport four days ago. In ten days the Republic of Ireland will hold a general election, an election in which a party that has won a plurality of the popular vote in every election since 1932 will be heavily walloped. If ever Ireland is to be newsworthy outside of Europe, it is now. Egpyt might have had something to do with a lack of international news about Ireland, methinks.
Let’s start with the Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest-circulation national newspaper. On their very user-friendly and comprehensive website, the freshest non-plane crash stories to be found are from February 1. One is titled ‘Irish PM dissolves parliament, calls early election’ and the other ‘Next Irish government faces dire economy’. Stories that made it into the paper this week ahead of anything related to Ireland included: ‘Prince Harry to be best man, Pippa Midleton maid of honour’ and ‘3 women honored in Italy for best letters to Juliet’.
The National Post, a more overtly conservative publication than the others, has an AFP sourced article dated January 24 with the headline ‘Ireland in tatters as coalition falls apart’. The word ‘tatters’ is so ubiquitous at the moment that a group of my friends has taken away a syllable so that it becomes ‘tats’ (for example – “my car’s brakes are in tats”). Another article published online on January 24 is titled ‘Stagflation looms for Ireland’. There is perhaps no more scary verb in the English language than ‘to loom’; almost always used in a negative context, it gets the idea across that the sword of Damocles is hovering just above the scalp, ready to be released by some malign agent. Stagflation is the free market supporter’s idea of hell, the nadir of possible outcomes.
The Toronto Star’s most recent non-plane crash Ireland story is dated January 22 and comes with the headline ‘Irish prime minister resigns, plans to stay government (sic) until next election’. The fact that the paper missed the word ‘in’ in the headline probably shows how long it spent on the story. Stories that made it in this week ahead of the Irish election included: ‘Google unveils ‘Map your Valentine” and ‘First photograph of Prince Philip revealed’.
The only newspaper of the four to carry a story on Irish politics and economics was the Ottawa Citizen, which two days ago published an article titled ‘Irish parties pledge to re-negotiate EU-IMF bailout’. The article is accompanied by a rather sad, frustrated and lonely looking Brian Cowen.
And there you have it. Ireland really does not matter much at the moment. Our election is probably seen, if at all, as either boring or insignificant. Hence, it does not ‘make good copy’, as they say.