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On St Patrick’s Day, Ireland fights for its image

Ireland's traveling government ministers hope to counter the Hollywood portrayal of their country.

The Irish economy is in recession and the government has cut public servants' pay, but unlike Greece, there has been no street unrest.

“We are sending out a positive message about Ireland,” said Cowen. “We are tackling our economic problems head-on, we are creating the conditions for economic recovery and we are firmly focused on creating new jobs to tap into the great talents of our people,”

The latest typically Hollywood Irish movie, “Leap Year” featuring Amy Adams and Adam Scott, which tells the story of a young woman going to Ireland to propose to her boyfriend, has particularly irritated the government’s image-makers.

Donald Clarke, film critic for The Irish Times believes that Hollywood “is incapable of seeing the Irish as anything but IRA men or twinkly rural imbeciles,” and dismissed “Leap Year” as “offensive, reactionary, patronizing filth.”

O’Dowd believes Ireland has lost control of its image in the United States, which was more accurately portrayed in the 1990s with movies like “My Left Foot” and “Commitments,” but has been hijacked by Hollywood and the authors of popular chic-lit books set in Ireland.

Contemporary Ireland still has its cliff-top castles and fiddle-playing characters, but it is also a country of modern highways and pharmaceutical factories, with high-end shopping malls and dangerous suburbs where you would not want to start fisticuffs in case the other guy pulls a gun. Here one is just as likely to meet a software engineer as the “broth of a boy” portrayed in the movies.

Ireland's modern identity was underlined by the Oscar won this year by Dublin art college graduate Richie Baneham for his visual effects in “Avatar.” The win will undoubtedly be mentioned by the traveling Irish government ministers at a St. Patrick’s Day parade near you.