September 5, 2019
By Ed Forry
IRELAND – I made that long-awaited trip to Ireland last month, spending 12 days on the Emerald Isle, most of it along the Wild Atlantic Way, all of it in the west. The weather in Ireland held up as expected: some rain, some sun, and lots of wind and moderate temps. It was a wonderful opportunity to get off the grid here in Boston, escape an August heat wave, and spend some quality time with family, friends and a few new acquaintances.
We traveled to Sligo and spent the weekend in the shadow of Ben Bulben. marveling at some of the great scenic wonders of that beautiful county. We visited with family in Sligo town, and later traveled down through Mayo and into Connemara, where we admired the mountains and the rocky, solitary moonscapes along the Wild Atlantic Way. They are magnificent in scale and grandeur.
It was interesting to learn how the Irish, on a daily, even hourly, basis stay connected with news from America. There is a great love of the United States among the Irish, and with this new age of internet connectivity and instant information, some of the Irish I spoke with are very knowledgeable about American politics, even more than some of our American neighbors.
While visiting with the owners and guests at the Enniscoe House, a splendid Georgian country home in Mayo, we had a wonderful conversation with a visitor from England, a recently retired National Health Service (NHS) nurse. Born in Mayo, he has lived in Dorset and worked with the NHS for 47 years. He said that he had bought into the Brexit campaign when the issue was first debated five years ago. But now he says it was simply false rhetoric, and he likened it to the MAGA slogans in America- “Make Britain Great Again!” He believes national health insurance in the UK is doomed, and if he had the chance to change his mind today, he would vote to reverse Brexit, and keep Britain in the European Union.
With him was his niece, an Irish nurse who formerly worked in Dublin and now, with the birth her first child, has settled back in the west, working in the Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar. She was very familiar with American politics, and is a great fan of Stephen Colbert, whom she quotes and laughs with regularly. It turns out Colbert's late night show on CBS has a huge following in Ireland: many tune in to nightly shows the next day, and view it on their computers. She said emphatically that she is not a fan of Donald Trump.
In Galway, I was talking with a friend who himself has recently retired and watches American television online every day. He's fully familiar with all the issues that are being debated here in the state ¬– immigration, climate change, Greenland and the like – and is critical about what he sees as some bad opinions that are expressed across the American populace. He’s most impressed with Lawrence O’Brien, “that Irish fella” he sees on MSNBC’s The Last Word.
In separate conversations, each of the Irish lamented the crushing divisiveness they see in political discourse in America, and they were keen to get an American opinion on who will be the Democrat candidate next year.
What is remarkable is how little they appreciate our president and the things that he says and does. The Irish I met said they continue to look for leadership from the United States, but Trump, they fear, means a return to a period when “Ugly Americans” was our calling card.