KUALA LUMPUR –- Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Ireland Business Forum in Malaysia Friday, Ireland’s ambassador based in Singapore said that the Irish Government needs to do more in Asia. Ambassador joe Hayes’ brief in Singapore covers the world’s 4th biggest country Indonesia, one of the world’s fastest growing economies but one where Ireland is not making an impact, he says. “All of the EU has a footprint in Indonesia except Ireland and Luxembourg,” Hayes told the APIBF, an annual gathering of Irish business executives covering a region from the Gulf to Japan. Hayes criticised the Irish Government for not sending top-level government rep. to an upcoming summit in Laos, the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting, or ASEM, which will take place Nov. 5-6 in Vientiane.
DUBLIN — As Archbishop Charles Brown takes up his new post of papal nuncio to Ireland, he will face what some see as unprecedented difficulties for the church in Ireland. After the publication of a series of reports outlining gruesome cases of sexual abuse by priests in Ireland over recent decades, coupled with a falloff in church attendance, and less quantifiably, a perceptible decline in religious belief and practice, it’s little wonder that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin predicted that his archdiocese faced its toughest challenge “since Catholic Emancipation,” the 1829 changes to British law that removed many of the discriminatory provisions against Catholics in the United Kingdom, of which Ireland was then a part. Archbishop Martin was commenting on a drop in Mass attendance in Dublin to 14% and declining priest numbers, but the remarks were seen by many as appropriate to the wider church in Ireland, which now operates within what Irish writer John Waters described to the Register as “the most anti-Catholic country in Europe.”
DUBLIN — Irish political punditry has long been something of an echo-chamber, so it was not much of a surprise when a tired default acronym got another airing over the past few weeks. “GUBU”, coined by the late Conor Cruise O’Brien, former UN diplomat, Irish government minister and editor of The Observer, stands for “Grotesque, Unbelievable, Bizarre and Unprecedented.” There is nothing, however, unprecedented about its over-use, as the acronym is invariably fired out whenever something controversial or unusual takes place in Irish politics. Inevitably, GUBU is the shorthand of choice, irrespective of hyperbole or appropriateness. The bizarre death-throes of the current government led by Brian Cowen and his party, Fianna Fáil, are as close to GUBU as Ireland has seen since the term first entered the political lexicon back in 1982 – when Ireland’s economy was spinning through another crisis.
DUBLIN – Europe is becoming a new horizon for China’s business-based diplomacy, less than a year after the European Union overtook the US to become China’s second-largest trading partner. Chinese investment expansion is increasingly turning to Europe, and it is finding a grateful audience. Last September, before the arrival of the International Monetary Fund and an €85 billion bailout offer-you-can’t-refuse for the economy once known as the Celtic Tiger, Ireland Prime Minister Brian Cowen tried to sell Chinese investors on the proposition that the country could be a low-tax Anglophone gateway to Europe. After meeting with a Politburo delegation in Dublin, Cowen said that China’s representatives had vowed to be “as helpful as they can to a friend like Ireland in the difficult times that we have.” That friendship appears to include a consortium of Chinese investors who are starting work on “an investment gateway to Europe” – an industrial park in central Ireland.
DUBLIN — While doing research on folk beliefs in Ireland in the early 20th century, an American anthropologist asked an elderly woman if she believed in fairies. “No, I do not, sir,” came the seemingly decisive reply. End of story? Not a chance. “However, they are there anyway,” the lady continued, perhaps wryly trying to make fun of her overly-earnest interlocutor. This well known anecdote might in fact be apocryphal, and though the supernatural is long gone from Irish popular culture, there is a mystical tinge to the country’s recent economic boom-to-bust saga. From the mid-1990s to 2007, Ireland’s economic growth changed a nation of emigrants into one where around 10 percent of the population were recently arrived immigrants, many from Eastern Europe. Growth ranged from 5-10 percent over a 15-year period and Ireland acquired the “Celtic Tiger” moniker after a Morgan Stanley economist compared the transformation of the North Atlantic island with the Asian Tiger economies of South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. Since 2008, however, Ireland’s GDP has contracted by 14 percent and its unemployment rate is now around the same percentage. One Asian country that was never close to joining the Tiger ranks was Burma. The country’s military rulers are known for their attachment to bizarre economic thinking, some of it apparently based on numerology or other esoteric notions.
KNOCK — 2009 saw the publication of two reports that have shocked Irish people, led to the resignation of four bishops, and prompted speculation that Pope Benedict XVI will instigate a reorganization of the Irish Church in a pastoral letter scheduled for early 2010. The 2,600-page “Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse” — the Ryan Report — was an investigation into the treatment of thousands of children, over many decades, in institutions and schools run by religious orders and congregations. It concluded that “physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of the institutions. Sexual abuse occurred in many of them, particularly boys’ institutions.” The report is not for the squeamish. For example, one case study tells how an abuser blared out music on a stereo system loud enough to cover the victim’s cries.