Don’t allow them to curb your enthusiasm Mr President when you arrive for Ireland’s big public relations moment, writes Paul Allen
Dear President Obama,
Let me share a secret with you. When you visit Ireland in May you are going to be confused, very confused.
You may have been surprised on St Patrick’s Day to discover Ireland actually still exists and hasn’t, despite media reports, disappeared down an economic black hole.
The perception and image of Ireland from an international viewpoint are incredibly important. So hopefully, when the world’s media follows your journey and arrives on our doorstep, it will discover we are still alive and kicking.
Your visit is a public relations coup that we desperately need. At present the world seems to relish taking every Irish bad news story and spinning it into a crisis. Indeed, as far as our own media is concerned, it is almost as if good news is deemed socially unacceptable.
To quote John F Kennedy, “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”
It is time not only to show the rest of the world Ireland is very much open for business, but, even more importantly, to show our own citizens all is not lost.
However, when you arrive you will need to be prepared to play the game.
Try to ignore the fact that Ireland isn’t a crumbling and destitute backwater. We like our grief and, while we cry into our pints, we seem to forget that Ireland, even though there has been a dramatic reversal in our economic fortunes, is still a country with a high standard of living. Indeed, despite the doom and gloom, Ireland still manages to rank as the fifth best country to live according to the recent findings of the UN Development Fund’s quality of life index.
When you arrive you will most likely be asked to curb your enthusiasm. Yes, while you are here there will be pressure put upon you to respect the national mood of mourning. But I beg you not to listen.
I want you to help inject some passion back into Ireland and re-ignite Ireland’s love affair with the American ‘can-do’ attitude.
Our reserves of positive energy have almost evaporated and now we simply sit back and sneer. We need that spirit of determination. We need a renewed passion for success.
Our brand has become tarnished in news reports highlighting our fall from grace, yet corporations that make long-term decisions continue to invest in Ireland’s future.
Intel has made a $500m investment in its Irish facility, while Zenimax Online Studios opened its new European Customer Support Centre in Galway, which is expected to result in hundreds of jobs over the coming years. Even more importantly, YouTube has bought Irish firm Green Parrot Pictures, which specialises in delivering intellectual licensing and high quality picture manipulation technology.
While Intel’s investment is a big boost, investments in Irish start-ups, such as Green Parrot Pictures, is of critical importance because innovation will prove essential in developing a sustainable future for a strong Irish economy.
So, while we need to clean up the mess that is our banking system and public finances, the heartbeat of the economy continues to recover and grow in strength.
However, Mr President, what Ireland needs most now is a little imagination. We have to push forward and underline to the non-believers that the Celtic tiger was no fluke. Irish people have excelled throughout the world, and the Irish nation can once again do likewise.
The new Government has had an impressive start, but while it re-engineers the State’s finances and, hopefully, Ireland’s deal with the EU and IMF, it needs to project confidence for the future.
Britain had the Blitz; America had the Great Depression; and now Ireland needs to overcome the untimely slaughter of the Celtic tiger.
When preparing your citizens to move beyond the financial crisis you said, “Americans still believe in an America where anything’s possible.” Let’s hope that you can impart the same message to the people of Ireland because we desperately need to believe again. So, as a favour, Mr President, please remind us once again, “Yes, we can.”