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7 Other Times When Ireland Made International Headlines... In A Good Way

By aidan

December 20, 2016 at 12:10am


Saturday's referendum result made front pages all over the world, and hammered home to international audiences what we at home already know – that Ireland is a modern, progressive nation that's doing all it can to shake off the shackles of its conservative past.

But it's not the first time that's happened. We're well known for punching above our weight, and these are a few examples of times when international eyes fell on our small island nation – and made the people of Ireland proud.

Smoking ban

Just as it’s a great source of pride to the Irish people that we were the first to approve same-sex marriage by a popular vote, it’s also a great source of pride that we were the first nation in the world to introduce a comprehensive ban on smoking in workplaces in March of 2004.

It seems difficult to imagine it any other way now – and sitting in smoky bars while you’re abroad seems a bizarre experience, just 11 years later – but it’s one of the few times Ireland truly blazed a trail on the international stage (and boy does Micheál Martin like to remind us about it…)

Plastic bag levy

Okay, so this one isn’t quite as impressive as the smoking ban – but it’s hard not to get a bit smug when you’re abroad, and you see shops chucking out these environmental hazards without a care in the world, or a single disincentive to stop them.

This claim to fame is very much in the bag – and we're more than happy to pay 22c for the privilege of said bag.

Italia ‘90

It seems like a lifetime ago now, but cast your mind back to last summer, to a night where the world tuned in to watch Costa Rica take on the Netherlands in the World Cup quarter-finals.

The plucky Central American underdogs had been one of the success stories of the tournament – and when Tim Krul’s intimidation tactics during the penalty shootout denied them a place in the semi-final, the global population felt their pain along with them.

Well, in 1990 we were Costa Rica – with an unexpected run to the quarter-final, involving perhaps the single most iconic moment ever seen in Irish sport as we knocked out Romania in the last 16 – and the world took great delight in buying into our Cinderella story.

Fields of Athenry

We can be the darlings of the sporting world when we lose, too – and when we were trounced 4-0 by Spain in Euro 2012, with a few minutes to go on the clock, our defiant/proud/oblivious/totes emosh rendition of The Fields of Athenry became one of the stories of the tournament.

Or so we like to tell ourselves anyway; it's better that way than remembering, y'know, the actual performances on the pitch.

The Northern Irish Peace Process

To matters somewhat more serious. From the late 1960s onwards, the Troubles brought attention to this island for all the wrong reasons – and it was going to take something very special to reverse the international perception of Ireland as a war-torn battlefield.

That came in 1998, in the form of the Good Friday Agreement. The dramatic circumstances of its signing, combined with the cross-community cooperation, gave an incredible sense of hope to those involved in other deadlocked conflicts around the world – and this made it one of the feelgood stories of the year.

The road to peace was just beginning, but this was a much-feted start.


Remember that stunned silence that followed the ending of its inaugural showing at the 1994 Eurovision?

Yeah. That.

The Celtic Tiger

The economic boom, not the Michael Flatley show. You can’t have more than one Michael Flatley entry in a single list article; that’s against the rules of the internet.

Yeah, okay, so it didn’t exactly end well… but while the Celtic Tiger was in full swing, Ireland was the success story the world just couldn’t get enough of.

A cautionary tale, you say?

Nah. Let’s all go buy houses.



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