Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Oh, that emerald isle and the characters it produces

The best known fact about Ireland is that its main export is people.

But then that’s not so surprising: they produce some fairly special ones. Not necessarily admirable, or even nice, but special all the same. This post, the third in my occasional series on remarkable images from advertising, is dedicated to some of them.

One of the less appealing Irish characters around today is Michael O’Leary, chief executive of the low cost airline Ryanair. His arrogance makes it difficult to avoid disliking him, but his cheek makes it difficult not to be amused.

‘What part of ‘no refund’ don't you understand?’ he once asked. You can’t fault him on his directness.

I’ve always particularly loved the story of the flight to Copenhagen which landed at Malmö. OK, that’s not that far from Copenhagen but it isn’t actually in the same country.

I have my own favourite personal experience on Ryanair. To be honest, it may have happened on an Easyjet flight, but I can’t let a slavish respect for precision spoil a good story, can I? A stewardess with a pronounced Northern Irish accent announced that there were ‘sex emergency exits’ on the aircraft. I think of her every time I come across a reference to Julian Assange: there’s a man who could have done with a sex emergency exit at a couple of points in his recent career.

If O’Leary provides an ambivalent example of the Irish character, when it comes to the Irish cricket team admiration has to be unblemished. Ireland has always been among the minnows in interntional cricket. The game isn’t deeply rooted in the psyche of the country which regards it as English – and few words are as disparaging in an Irishman’s mouth as ‘English’. It’s an aversion that’s hard to understand, by the way: we’ve slaved over the centuries to bring peace to Ireland, often at the point of a bayonet.

Despite their low profile in the game, the Irish have had some famous successes in the past. Notably, in 1969 they beat one of the giants of the game, a touring team from the West Indies, to everyone’s astonishment. The Irish must have been amazed and one can only imagine how the Windies felt.

Last week Ireland pulled off an even more satisfying coup, by handsomely beating England in this year’s world cup.

You can’t overstate the importance of this victory. If ‘English’ has nothing but ugly connotations for an Irishman, ‘beating England’ are words that dreams are made of. A friend of mine kept a photograph from an Irish rugby victory over England in his smallest room – the best place to ensure everyone saw it – for years. He may have it there still. And another Irish friend took delight in sending me a copy of the Ryanair advert Michael O’Leary took out in the English papers celebrating this most recent success for his country.

And getting a bit of a plug in for his airline at the same time.

A great Irish victory, shamelessly exploited by another Irishman

You can’t help smiling can you? The brazen check, the bandwagonning, the opportunism. Outstanding. O’Leary is true to himself.

As for the cricket XI – well, their country needs a bit of good news these days. What a fine way to supply some.


Anonymous said...

You say that it is difficult to like O'Leary; then why don't you take the easy way out?

Anonymous said...

Was unable to add my name in the last comment.

Ronnie said...

I was at that match in 1969 in Belfast. There were two reasons why the Windies lost. One- they had never seen so much green grass on something known as a wicket and two- they were so hung over from the guiness they had had the night before.