bySeán Joseph Clancy
Michael D represented Ireland well during his recent four-day official visit to Cuba.
He arrived on St Valentine’s Day, having been to both Colombia and Peru. All three are countries close to our president’s heart, and exchanges with his counterparts in the latter two will have been more meaningful and informed than they might have come to expect from European officials, who generally blindly toe the NATO and US line and swap ephemeral platitudes, unlikely to rattle a status quo that literally leaves children starving to death in two of the most unequal and corrupt rich countries on Earth.
How gloriously different things are in this proud, insular Caribbean bastion of revolutionary socialism!
Even though Michael D had twice previously met and talked briefly to President Raúl Castro—at Nelson Mandela’s funeral and at an international conference—and the “diplomatic chemistry” between them had been described as good, the fact that their amicable meeting in Havana lasted for more than four hours was noted by many on both sides, and most certainly in other quarters also.
Protocol had dictated that the official invitation from Cuba had to be extended to the Irish government—as opposed to the head of state—which meant that the president and his staff were accompanied by officials from a Department of Foreign Affairs that had recently made abundantly clear its rejection of Michael D’s reasonable and balanced views on Cuba. There were no obvious signs of tension between the two establishment camps, though there was at times a somewhat condescending attitude to the mannerisms and the intellectualism of the president on the part of Dublin civil servants and their Blueshirt-inclined political superiors.
The Irish ambassador and her staff, being based in Mexico, must have found elements of the traditional Cuban bureaucracy and apparent indifference quite terrifying by times in their endeavours to organise the visit; yet in fairness it must be said that they did a great job, and something essentially warm, hospitable and Irish permeated the official events and functions.
Michael D was well matched, and was accompanied to many of these, by Cuba’s tall, bearded and pony-tailed minister of culture, the poet, intellectual and political heavyweight Abel Prieto, who seemed to particularly relish the concert of traditional Irish music and dancing in Havana’s beautiful Teatro Martí. Two Cuban uilleann pipers, and the perfect rendition of a sean-nós lament in Irish by a young Cuban woman, added to a great session that ended with a standing ovation and a fitting encore.
It was nice to see the best of what we are, where we have come from and what we as a nation aspire to become eloquently transmitted and represented by our head of state and fine exponents of our literature, music, dances, language, and history.
In the face of the shameful and pitiful gombeen greed and ignorance passed off as representing who we are on the international stage by our crooked band of fraudsters and thieves, which must have poor Paddy Kavanagh still twisting restlessly in his tomb, this four-day respite in Havana served as a timely reminder that Irish men and women are of a robust, true and noble stock, very much needed in these days of the global epidemic of post-Trumpwin stress disorder (about which more from Cuba anon).