Bill Clinton's Battle Cry to Irish, Get Up and Get Going Is Heeded

The Big Man is in town and the Irish glitterati are in tow. Bill Clinton remains the most popular world politician in Ireland by a country mile.
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It is one in the morning on Friday at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin and Bill Clinton is holding court. Chris Matthews of MSNBC, who is filming a documentary on Clinton for release this December, is hanging on every word.

So are a handful of invited guests who have made it past the rope line and the beefy security guard at the back of the bar area. On the table are assorted finger foods, and a waiter quietly serves refreshments to all who ask.

No one is asking, everyone is hanging on Bill Clinton's every word.

The Big Man is in town and the Irish glitterati are in tow.

Clinton remains the most popular world politician in Ireland by a country mile. His role in the Irish peace process, his evident pride in his Scots-Irish heritage and his frequent visits to the country that gave him one of his most enduring foreign policy successes, have all combined to make him Ireland's favorite leader -- including its own current crop of politicians.

Just how well he is regarded is shown by Ireland's most successful businessman Denis O'Brien who is one of those present on this night. He had proclaimed Clinton's earlier speech to a gathering of Ireland's leading business lights convened by Business and Finance magazine a watershed moment.

As one of the very few Irish businessmen who had made it through the collapse of the Celtic Tiger unblemished, a major humanitarian, the chairman of digital giant Digicel and a huge player in the Irish media he is not given to such hyperbole easily.

Just that day the Irish government had come clean and admitted that the Irish banking system was $65 billion in the hole. Everywhere hair shirts were being donned and the gloom and doom was encircling like a fog.

Then comes Bill Clinton to blow away the haze and give hope where none had existed. In two separate speeches, on the campus of University College Dublin he had weaved the old Clinton magic to show that far from being a basket case, Ireland was incredibly lucky to be where it was.

He told students that compared to much of the world where $2 a day was a maximum wage they were fortunate to have such bright prospects in life. You could almost see them suddenly sit up and rethink their station in life.

He told the businessmen in a long and mazy speech that wandered into greek philosophy, Freudian psychology and straightforward political advice , that Ireland would be 'just fine' and that they had, just that day, a concrete bottom line of what they owed and they could now put together a definitive business plan to deal with it.

The subtext was clear. Stop feeling sorry for yourselves, stop feeling down, now you see the roadmap, crank up the satellite navigation and begin the journey.

Denis O'Brien stated bluntly that the Clinton speech would mark the launch of the Irish comeback. Declan Kelly, U.S. economic envoy to Northern Ireland, pronounced the speech the 'battle cry' that the Irish had been longing to hear.

At the Shelbourne Hotel Bill Clinton himself was in no doubt that the problem could be tackled. The Irish just need to know their strengths" he said. "They are a beacon for the world in so many ways he said instancing the peace process and their incredible commitment to humanitarian good deeds worldwide through agencies like Concern and GOAL.

"They just need to believe." After Clinton left they had suddenly found that belief.