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.
When Irish Taoiseach (or Prime Minister) Brian Cowen joins political leaders from Northern Ireland in Washington for next week’s St Patrick’s Day jamboree, President Barack Obama will hopefully show them more courtesy than he did UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week. He should, because rather than bore the new president with wonkish jabbering about the merits of the G20, the Irish will give Obama a spin on the time machine, a Tardis ride to an older Ireland assumed to be but an artifact. Given the context, that all might come off as somewhat glib. An old anecdote tells of a British pilot, making his landing announcement on a flight from London to Belfast, sometime in the early 1970s. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are commencing our descent into Belfast. Please set your watches back 300 years” – in reference to Northern Ireland’s seemingly anachronistic sectarian disputes.
DUBLIN — Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern announced yesterday that he will step down next month after accusations of corruption. Ireland achieved record economic growth and peace with Northern Ireland during Mr. Ahern’s 11-year tenure, but an ongoing inquest into the prime minister’s personal finances has undermined his record. When Mr. Ahern became prime minister in 1997, Ireland was three years into a period of soaring economic growth and employment. One year later, Mr. Ahern left his mother’s funeral to finalize Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace agreement. Tony Blair, the British prime minister at the time, praised Mr. Ahern’s role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland. “He will always be remembered … for transforming relations between Britain and the Irish Republic,” Mr. Blair said.