LAST WEEK I was invited along to the Global Irish Economic Forum. It was a very exciting and inspiring experience.
I arrive at Dublin Castle with Fr Lawlor. We are here to give Bishop Brophy moral support for his speech on how the Church can help contribute to Ireland’s future. We have been invited because we are “stakeholders”, and as the guardians of (most) people’s souls we have been asked to offer our own unique insights.
People from every social, cultural, and economic milieu in Ireland are here to provide intelligent and informed opinions, and Bono is here too.
We all settle down to listen to Enda Kenny’s opening address. Eamon Gilmore arrives. He can’t seem to decide where to sit, and as a result he becomes very anxious. Within seconds he is on his mobile phone: “Mark, I don’t know what to do. There are literally dozens of chairs to choose from.”
Enda Kenny gives his opening speech. He tells us that Ireland’s future is very bright, and that we are going to be the first country to wave bye bye to the IMF. To hammer home his point, he mimes waving bye bye to the IMF. “This is me waving bye bye to the IMF,” he says helpfully. He waves bye bye to the IMF for a full five minutes, during which time everyone’s confidence about our ability to wave bye bye to the IMF obviously increases a thousandfold.
Eamon Gilmore gives a motivational speech about “the importance of decisive action.” Then he gives a second version of the speech, “just in case the first version wasn’t good enough.”
Enda Kenny is giving a workshop on waving bye bye to the IMF. He is very good. The people present are very enthusiastic, and while some of them have difficulty with the raising their arms bit, once they get to the waving bit they are giving it socks. At the end a delighted looking Enda Kenny thanks everybody for coming.
Fr Lawlor raises his hand to ask a question. “I was just wondering, regarding the waving bye bye to the IMF thing. How do we get to the point of waving bye bye, what with a huge loan to pay, and all those other little niggly things that go with living in an increasingly depressed economy in a state that is possibly essentially bankrupt?”
Enda Kenny nods sagely. “I’m very glad you asked me that question. The thing to remember is…” Then he points out the window and shouts “Look! Is that Jesus?” and runs away.
Canapé time. Fr Lawlor corners Gabriel Byrne by a platter of sandwiches. “ I hear you once went for the priesthood,” says Fr Lawlor. Gabriel Byrne just gives a small shy smile. “Would you not have stuck it out?” he asks. Gabriel Byrne tries to walk away, but Fr Lawlor is determined to find out why he also left Bracken.
Bishop Brophy gives his Powerpoint presentation to a rapt audience. He does his “How did that get in there?” gag when his picture of Bishop Lynch coming down a water slide pops up. It goes down a storm, especially with Eamon Gilmore who laughs like a drain on the advice of his advisor.
John McColgan and Moya Doherty are very upset because nobody has mentioned Riverdance for at least five minutes.
Another break for food. Eamon Gilmore is on the phone to his advisor again. “Mark, they have canapés. Should I take some, or will it spoil my dinner?”
Bill Clinton is late for his speech because he has been posting vacancies on the JobBridge internship scheme website. When he finally arrives he is very flushed and obviously very excited to be here.
Fr Lawlor corners Gabriel Byrne by a canapé stand. He asks him if he feels bad about playing Satan in “End of Days.” Gabriel doesn’t seem too happy with this line of questioning, but overall there is a great buzz in the room, and great fun is being had by everybody.
Then Bono starts talking.
There is a panel discussion about how the arts can help Ireland’s recovery. The discussion ends prematurely when Fr Lawlor asks Gabriel Byrne to explain the end of “The Usual Suspects” and Gabriel Byrne responds by throwing a chair at him.
On the way home we review what was a very important and inspiring day. We have come away feeling re-energised and confident about Ireland’s future, and we have learned three very important things:
- Canapés are only brilliant.
- If, as the forum has taught us, Ireland’s recovery depends on the ability to use nice buzzwords, allied to an earnest tone of spiritual conviction, then the Church is extremely well placed to restore Ireland’s international reputation.
- Leo Varadkar is lovely and smells of strawberries.