CORRESPONDENCErnLetter From Irelandrnby Thomas FlemingrnBad Catholics, Good Europeansrn”Irish Americans are often disappointedrnwhen thev come here,” remarked thernScottish chatelaine of onr prett}’ B&B onrnthe Dingle Peninsula, as she served usrnour breakfast of scrambled eggs andrnsmoked salmon. “They expect to seernthatched cottages with leprechauns poppingrnout from shamrocks.”rn”Played by Barn- Fitzgerald or ArthurrnShields?”rn”Yes, and girls who look just like Maureenrn(THara in the movie . . . “rn”The Quiet Man?”rn”Yes, The Quiet Man. Ireland’s notrnlike that, now. It’s quite a pushing andrnmodern place.”rnIn any American discussion of Ireland,rnthe talk turns inevitably to films andrnbooks, though it has been said that thernIrish struggled hundreds of years to gainrntheir independence, and vvlien they gotrnit, they were a peasant people who hadrnno use for any literature that was notrnChristian and uplifting. Yeats told thernDublin audience that rabbled the cast ofrn0’Case’s The Plow and the Stars that thernIrish people had disgraced themselvesrnagain, but in rereading O’Casey (a childhoodrnfavorite of mine), I tend to side withrnthe mob. We saw no thatched roofs onrnthe Dingle Peninsula, but we countedrnover ten on the back roads we took, drivingrnin two days from ‘I’ralee (where wernsaw, just to the north, the Ardfert Cathedralrnwith its delicate pattern of white andrndark stone giving the impression of dice)rnover to Trim (whose half-ruined castlernstood in for York in Braveheart).rnThe peninsula is a er- beautifulrnplace —imagine Nova Scotia litteredrnwith early Christian monuments —butrnlike so many onee-remote and wildrnplaces, it is being ruined. The omnipresentrnbungalows line the roads as regularlyrnas trash cans on pick-up day in Rockford,rnand the town of Dingle itself is becomingrna tourist center which might justrnas well be located next to Big Sur, onrnMartha’s Vineard, or in Door County,rnWisconsin. We were on Dingle in earlyrnNovember, when most of the B&B’srnand tourist pubs were closed up for thernseason. Ashe’s pub and restaurant inrnCamp had subsided into a local hangout,rnand the high winds (gushng to over 60rnm.p.h.) blew the turf-fire smoke downrnthe chimney and filled the room. Therngirl apologized, but my jacket shll smellsrnof the peat bog —the best souvenir (apartrnfrom a few hop flowers from James Guinness’srnhop garden) I took back from Ireland.rnWe are having breakfast on the seventh,rnjust after Mr. Gore called Mr. Bushrnto tell him he had changed his mind.rnOur charming chatelaine, a self-describedrnsocialist, is naturallv rooting forrnAl Gore. In Ireland, they apparently havernbeen led to believe that Democrats arernintelligent and educated people, but Republicansrnare ignorant rednecks. Wouldrnthat it were so. If I had spent ten yearsrnwatching the news on Irish One, thernBBC, and Sk- News and reading thernDublin press, I might have reached thernsame conclusion. There is, in fact, verylittlernreal difference in the point of iewrnof jomnalists in Dublin, London, andrnNew York. They share the same cliches,rnthe same prejudices, the same blindrnspots. They arc, as it were, Michael Kinsleyrnwrit large (though, to be honest, onerndoes not have to use a large point size tornbeat Mr. Kinsley). Globalism is good, localismrnbad; the European Ihiion mayrnhave its faults, but it is the best thing going;rnClinton may have committed arncriminal act in bombing Yugoslaia, butrnMr. Bush’s “isolationism” is terrifying;rnMr. Bush is the candidate of big oil, andrnif Mr. Gore and his father took large sumsrnfrom Occidental Petroleum, that is simplyrnwhat all polificians do, and if Gore’srnposition in Occi stock influenced thernClinton decision to prop up the militaryrnregime in Colombia, that decision isrnmade in America’s strategic interests,rnetc., etc.rnI don’t know how to say “etc.” in Gaelic,rnbut if I did, I would be one up on thernIrish. As my Dublin cabdrivcr remarked,rnwhen I asked about his obvious problemrnin finding the Irish word for Halloween,rn”Sme we study it in school, but oncernvou’re out, it’s shag-all for the Irish.”rn(Perha])s I have seen too manv moviernprcviev s, but 1 interpreted “shag” as a euphemismrnfor the commonest word in thernmodern Dublin vocabulan.)rnThe big scandal in Dublin, trumpingrneven former Prime Minister CharlesrnIlaughv’s corruption scandal, was [‘affairernSynon, inspired by a column writtenrnby Marv Kllen Synon in the SimdayrnIndependent, lampooning the “Paralympics.”rnHere in America, when JoernBob Briggs lost his job for writing anrnoffensively funny piece, “We Are thernWeird,” the story was given a few inchesrnin flic entertainment section. Mi,ss Synon’srnentirely rational argument was frontpagernnews for several das and filled fliernop-ed pages and letters colmrms forrnweeks. Denounced b)- all right-fliinkingrnpeople —political leftists, liberal Cafliolics,rnher reptilian colleagues in thernpress —Miss Synon was treated to thernultimate indignity of having to read herrneditor’s public apolog. Even BertiernAherne, the Taoiseach (pronouncedrn”tea-shock” —just say “teashop,” onernjournalist told me, and they’ll know whatrnyou mean), weighed in.rnI know Ireland is a small country, butrneven a xillage of 500 people should haernsomething more important to worr’rnabout flian the heartrending spectacle ofrnparaplegic gymnasts. Miss Synon wasrnsimply expressing, albeit in racy prose,rnher old-fashioned commitment to competitivernexcellence.rnMiss Synon, who is a Chronicles readerrn(is fliat one source of lier problems?),rnwas wonderfully helpful to us throughoutrnour .sta’ in Dublin. We dined on classicrnDublin fare in an Italian restaurant (withrncharming Indian waitresses). Before myrnfritto inisto and bottle of X’crnaceia di SanrnGimignano, I did have an imusual primarn—d Kilkalty black pudding washedrndown bv a glass of Jameson’s.rnThe Dublin press, which speaks wiflirnvirtualh’ one voice on crippled gmnasts,rnis strangely divided on the E.U. Are flicyrnless than enthusiastic about all the benefitsrntiny Ireland is deriving from beingrnone of flie smallest states of Oceania? Farrnfrom it. But unlike their colleagues inrnNew York and Washington, Irish joumahrnists are reporting on the downside of glob-rn36/CHRONICLESrnrnrn