Irish eyes are fixed this weekend on France, where on Monday the home team will face off against Sweden in the UEFA football (read: soccer) championship games which opened in Paris Friday night. A lot of attention has also been devoted this week to the funeral of Muhammad Ali, who was greatly admired here, where boxing is a national passion. Ali’s humanitarian and civil rights work was not overlooked and in fact probably overshadowed his athletic achievements in the eyes of many.
Almost absent at the moment are thoughts of the impending visit of Donald Trump, coincident in just over a week’s time with that of Vice-President Joe Biden. The people of west Clare will be happy to see him. Trump’s investment in his “magnificent” resort-hotel complex a few years ago brought needed employment and income to the area. Money talks. But elsewhere, Trump’s views have been denounced as sexist, racist, bigoted and generally outrageous. The Taoiseach (read: prime minister), Enda Kenny, has made no pretense of loathing Trump’s positions on a host of issues. The Green Party is considering protest marches, while calmer heads consider that a general snub might be sufficient.
Ireland is Clinton country, having benefited enormously from the efforts made by Bill Clinton to steer business to the beleaguered north in particular during his presidency. But his popularity in the Republic is also undimmed. His visits are greeted with a hero’s welcome. The Irish are not naïve about human foibles, but they are also acutely sensitive to political thuggery. And there lies the difference.