Saturday 19 January 2019

Terry Prone: Riverdance? You lost me at 'tears', Enda

Would someone please tell me what's so emotionally-grabbing about a bunch of people banging ugly weighted shoes on the floor in rhythm? Strong men and women will tell you they alway get chills up their spine when the music starts. That they get a lump in their throat. A tear in their eye. Beats me, this reaction.

I just don't get Riverdance. Admittedly, me and the odd family in furthest Mongolia may have the distinction of never having SEEN Riverdance, so maybe it's not surprising that I don't burst into tears whenever the distinctive music starts.


Anyway, Taoiseach Enda Kenny's emotional response makes up for me. He cries every time those dancers lash themselves out in a hammering line. We know, because he told us this week. Well, he actually told 75 of our ambassadors, which has to have been something of a surprise to them.

You have to figure that when the Taoiseach of the day addresses the serried ranks of our ambassadors, he doesn't usually talk about his emotional responses. You can't imagine Brian Cowen telling a bunch of CD-plated VIPs that he comes over all misty-eyed when he attends the Bolshoi. If he attends the Bolshoi. Well, OK, the matter wouldn't arise, I concede the point.

But our current Taoiseach, in his clearly unscripted talk to the ambassadors, went where no Irish Taoiseach ever went before: into the emotions department. No previous Taoiseach, to my knowledge, has ever admitted being tearful at anything. Not only did Enda Kenny man up and confess to brimming eyes at Riverdance, he also got wound up about the Leinster dressing room.

He lost me there, too. If I go by his speech, you can get out of the Leinster dressing room only by climbing up the walls and out the windows. Who the hell, I want to know, was allowed to design a dressing-room to such lousy standards?

Enda's speech to the ambassadors wasn't a back-of-the-lorry bellow. It was quiet and thoughtful. It acknowledged the importance of their role representing Ireland in countries right across the globe, and it asked them to be the best ambassadors they can be, even at a harsh time for Ireland.

He wasn't boring them to death with guff about grants and advance factories and GDP, because he knows that's not going to put pep in anybody's step or motivate them to go out and enthuse foreigners about this country.

The really annoying thing about the speech was that it said so much that we've been saying to each other. We've talked -- even those of us who have damn all interest in rugby have talked -- about that miraculous second-half recovery by Leinster.

We've talked about how Riverdance grabs us by the emotional short and curlies. We've wondered how our lads got on, backstage, with the queen and with Obama. Dealing with the ambassadors, the Taoiseach ticked every one of those boxes.

He reminded U2 fans of the Chinese lad climbing out of the tank and using the name of the band to connect with Ireland. He mentioned that the queen had told him that her lot had given our lot the English language.

"And look what we did with it," he went on. "Yeats, Synge, Heaney, Becket, Banville, Anne Enright, Edna O'Brien..."

He described giving Obama a little scrap of paper and asking the American President to write a message the children of Ireland on it.

"Dream Big Dreams," Obama wrote.

He quoted John B. Keane from memory. All in a stream of consciousness designed to emphasise, not the commercial success of Riverdance, but the boundless potential to be found in this country, even at the worst of times, and the responsibility of each individual to drive towards hope and possibility.

Of course, it's easy to mock such a talk. It's dead easy to be cynical about it.

But where's the gain in cheap cynicism?

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