Chilean miners example to all


Without a doubt the story of recent weeks, if not the year, was the remarkable rescue of the 33 trapped Chilean miners.
It was a rescue attempt that seemed improbable, if not downright impossible. It is only a few weeks ago since the authorities were suggesting that it could take until the end of November.
The rescue bid had 33 major objectives. It incredibly achieved all of them. The thirty three miners who spent 10 weeks trapped underground and were presumed dead for the first seventeen days of their incarceration are now re-united with their families and loved ones.  
It is a story full of real heroes. Not only are there the 33 miners themselves, there are their families who never lost faith and the countless engineers and technicians who devised and executed the rescue.
The leader of the 33 miners was the last to emerge, speaking of their strength, their spirit and their determination to fight and to survive.  
For the Chilean people the flawless rescue has been the source of delight, unity and enormous pride. It might also be the opportunity for that country and its people to put Gen Pinochet and the pain he inflicted on his country behind it.
Members of the commentariat here have spent the days since the last miner emerged speaking of the rescue as a metaphor for the economic and employment problems we face.
They rightly talk of the rescue as a triumph of the human spirit and its capacity for hope, but then they miss their own point and complain that the spirit of hope witnessed in Chile is lacking here in Ireland as we weather the economic storm.
They speak in justifiably glowing terms of Chile’s unity of purpose and spirit of hope, but then appear impervious to the self-fulfilling nature of the negative, doom and gloom commentary they have been churning out here for the past two years.
It is an example of seeing our problems through their own blame game prism – as if hope and self belief were qualities completely lacking here in Ireland. They are not: but they can be very hard to find amid the welter of negative coverage and wall to wall forecasters of doom and gloom.
What happened in Chile was a community, a region and then a country coming together to ensure that the miners would be rescued safe and well. The unity and determination of everyone across Chile, from the President right down to those who volunteered and entertained the children at Camp Hope is what is truly inspiring.
I don’t know if Chile has its equivalent of liveline or the late night talk shows, but if it does, their siren voices were not allowed to drown out the voices of hope.
It is, of course, possible to over stretch the Chilean comparison beyond anything reasonable, but the lesson I would draw from what we saw at the San Jose mine is that everyone has a role to play in the recovery.  
I am not arguing for some Pollyanna style media coverage or commentary that filters out the bad and only looks at the good. Critical analysis and coverage is vital, but let it be based on fair and accurate reporting and solid evidence. Too often complex data is misinterpreted to almost doomsday scenarios.
We should not be naïve. These reports at home are beamed around the world and can influence the decisions of foreign investors and multinationals. The economic analysts and talking heads who daily hold forth on our situation have almost the same capacity to undermine or promote confidence in our economy as our elected leaders – but without the pressure of scrutiny and peer analysis. So they are not in a position to bemoan any lack of confidence they have contributed to themselves.
Yes we still have difficult choices and unpalatable decisions ahead, but the tough decisions made in 2008 and 2009 have stopped the decline in our fortunes and are already providing the basis for our recovery.
We have much cause for hope and much reason for optimism.

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