Ireland really should boost its self-esteem – Matt Damon compares it to a ‘fairytale’ and suddenly it’s as happy as a pig in mud
In Martin Scorsese’s film ‘The Departed,’ about the Irish-American mob in Boston, Damon’s undercover cop character observed, “What Freud said about the Irish is, we're the only people who are impervious to psychoanalysis.” It has the ring of truth too, with even the most famous Irishman of all, Bono once noting, “In a movie that’s all about lies, that is not one of them.”
But we Irish are also one of the most boastful races. We like to blow our own trumpet ad nauseam about this supposed great little nation of ours – probably even more than Donald Trump, during his self-indulgent White House press conferences.
If Sigmund Freud was alive today, he would also probably have hypothesized that we Irish are a walking contradiction, because the nation’s self-conceit is derived from a constant need for approval that is fueled by low self-esteem.
I’m not alone in my thinking here. Ireland is “unquestionably the smuggest” little country in the world, according to leading Irish columnist Fintan O’Toole. As my namesake also once observed, “We suffer from SSS: Snow White stepmother syndrome. We have a magic mirror that knows the required dialogue off by heart: Who’s the fairest of them all? You are, lovely little Ireland.”
The Irish took a gleeful look at that vanity mirror, once again, when Matt Damon waxed lyrically about the Auld Sod on a Dublin radio station on Wednesday – an interview he was, coincidentally enough, cajoled into doing by Bono, who likes to promote Ireland so much, he should be getting a cut of the profits.
The Oscar-winning actor – who has found himself in lockdown in Dublin with his family because he happened to be there making a new Ridley Scott movie – said “it feels like a fairytale” being based in the smart seaside town of Dalkey, alongside his rich and famous new neighbours Enya, Bono and The Edge.
You know what, I’d readily agree with him, too, if I could afford the luxury of self-isolating in a €7,000-a-week mansion that belongs to retired Formula 1 driver Eddie Irvine.
It’s nowhere near as bad as Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” jibe, but his comments show how out of touch he is when it comes to the reality of living in a city that has one of the worst housing and homeless crises in the EU.
It is certainly not a “fairytale” for the vast majority of Dubliners, who can barely afford to keep a roof over their heads. Rent in the capital for a three-bedroom apartment is now an astronomical €3,613 per month – much steeper than Paris and Berlin. Even many of the snowflake generation can’t afford to flee the nest, given that it costs about €850, if you’re lucky, for a room in shared accommodation.
The Irish media were always going to lap up a barrage of effusive compliments from a Hollywood star, so it was a no-brainer to find Matt splashed across the front pages of all the local papers. But it was much more surprising to see many major American and British media outlets, who really should have known better, falling into the trap, too – especially considering it was nothing more than your typical “we love you Ireland” gibberish that every jetlagged rock star makes when there on a world tour.
Matt’s BS “fairytale” comment will no doubt have prompted even more naïve Americans to buy into the gobbledygook about Dublin being populated with leprechauns and “comely maidens dancing at the crossroads,” as former president Éamon de Valera is often misquoted as saying. And just forget any roaming-horses bollocks too. You’d be literally taking your life into your hands by going searching for any wild stallions there, because they’ll be found only in the city’s most deprived areas, where the youths keep them as pets.
Apart from the great pub culture, tourists will be sorely disappointed with this expensive and soulless city – one that is becoming increasingly bland and more Americanized all the time, and has done ever since it sold its soul to become a tax haven to the tech giants that run their European operations from there.
It sums up how uninspiring the place really is when you think how the most popular tourist destination spot last year was, of all places, the Guinness factory, as I pointed out in a recent RT op-ed piece on Irish pub culture.Also on rt.com Time to sup that last pint of stout. It’s closing time for many of Ireland’s pubs amid the Covid-19 catastrophe
Everybody is going on about how wonderful it is that Matt Damon has lots of privacy in Dublin, which is obviously not too hard when you’re stuck in an ivory tower like Rapunzel, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. But even that’s not exactly true, because he’s been hounded for interviews and papped there several times.
It’s an absurd myth that Ireland’s “céad míle fáilte” – Irish for a “hundred thousand welcomes” – extends to the country being a place where A-list stars can go without being molested. I once hung out for a weekend with the actor Martin Sheen, after I interviewed him, and he was mobbed whenever we ventured outside – so much so that even churchgoers pestered him for selfies, when I brought him to Mass to say a quiet prayer.
As the musician Nick Cave, who lived in Ireland for a period, once quipped, “Irish people couldn’t care less about celebrity. It doesn’t matter how famous you are – they just treat everybody the same. Now, I only know this because I sat in a bar for a couple of hours last night and somebody came over to tell me that every five f****** minutes!”
I’d probably understand Matt’s fairytale comparison if he was stuck out in the wilds of Connemara, because many parts of rural Ireland are picturesque and wonderful – but Dublin! I make absolutely no apologies here when I say – to use local slang again – the place is a kip. It’s also a tourist rip-off spot, to boot – it’ll easily set you back €20 for two pints and two packets of potato chips in Temple Bar.Matt Damon is away with the fairies if he believes the real Dublin is like being in a fairytale. After all, it’s not called Dirty Auld Town for nothing.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.