Friday, March 18, 2011
A Word from Bill Clinton
Words of hope spoken in the Spring.
MICHAEL O'REGAN... Published in the Irish Times today
FORMER US president Bill Clinton has expressed concern about Ireland’s high suicide rate and urged a return to core values in the journey to economic recovery.
Mr Clinton said that while Ireland had an economic problem, profound damage had also been done to the Irish psyche.
“The thing that has troubled me most, believe it or not, about this whole economic crisis in Ireland has been the rise in the suicide rate, not just among the young, where it was already too high, but among those in their prime working years who feel somehow that their whole lives have been robbed,” he said.
Mr Clinton said a good friend, “one of the young, phenomenally prosperous Irishmen”, had taken his life and made him think about the Irish situation all over again.
The former president was speaking at a lunch on Tuesday at the New York Yacht Club, where he presented Irish America magazine’s annual award to John L Lahey, who has been involved in the city’s St Patrick’s Day parade for 30 years.
Mr Clinton said Ireland’s economic difficulties were not the end of the world, adding that the Republic was beginning another chapter in its history.
“Somehow, we need to help our friends there not just to recover but to keep their heads on straight while they are recovering.”
Ireland, he said, had voted to make a new beginning by way of a political change.
It should never be assumed again, he said, that any given level of prosperity was permanent, that any economic arrangement could not be improved, and that any clever thing done might not be tinged with a little arrogance carrying the seeds of its destruction.
“We should remember that what we loved about Ireland was how green and beautiful it was . . . how beautiful the poetry and prose were . . . and how wonderful the music and the dance are.”
Mr Clinton said he was convinced if everybody had “30 lucid minutes” before passing away, almost nobody would use them to think “how cool it was when we got rich”.
He added: “We would think about who we liked and who we loved and how the flowers smelt in the springtime . . . when we made the passage from youth to adulthood . . . and what it was like when our children were born or when we gave our daughters away at the altar.”
Mr Clinton said the thing people loved about Ireland had almost nothing to do about whether it was financially successful or not.
“It was what it was at the core. Ireland will be great and prosperous and wonderful again, simply by recovering what it is at the core. So it is for us not only to give advice, investment and support, but to scrape away the barnacles which have clouded the vision of the place we love.”