Man of Achill at Parliament Gate

Christy Moore’s song ‘Lisdoonvarna’ made The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry in a week that was disturbing and surreal. We tried to get our heads and imaginations around 50 billion – the cost of bailing out Irish banks. We said  fifty thousand million very slowly but that didn’t seem to make it any more real, just more frightening.

And then a Man of Achill gave us a startling piece of installation art when he drove his toxic truck right up to the gates of Dail Eireann in Dublin’s Kildare Street on its first day in session after the summer break, with its screaming blood-red paint and bankrupt  number plates.  And we were mesmerized by the  truck stuck outside the Dail for most of that day in a very bleak week.

In Dawson Street – the next street over from where the toxic truck was still stuck – the RIA launched the massive 1,000 page Penguin Book of Irish Poetry that included, among three Nobel Laureates and many many greats, the lyrics of Lisdoonvarna penned by Christy Moore during that other Irish recession of the 1980s: ‘There we are in the County Clare / It’s a long long way from here to there …’ If only words and verse could save us.

The day after all this I was treading the ground among the hills of Ballyhoura, walking on the banks of the River Keale from Ballyorgan to Darragh when a fox appeared on the side of the hill, stopped in its tracks and looked down on us as if to say, you’re a pitiful bunch. For a few moments humans and animal stood still, staring at one another before  the fox ran off into the gorse and we went on our way.

By Sunday the nation was beginning to recover from the massive shock and words of hope were ringing through the Sunday airwaves when I caught the tail end of a discussion with an economist Gerard O’Neill who talked about the bringing creativity  and compassion to bear on our problems. We should dare to be optimistic, he said. Strange to hear the word ‘compassion’ in an economist’s vocabulary.

Christy Moore offers some consoling words in Lisdoonvarna , ‘Everybody needs a break / Climb a mountain or jump in a lake.’