‘Hope’ by Joseph O’Connor

The effects of the financial crisis have been felt more or less everywhere and Ireland in particular, being the first nation in the Eurozone to enter economic recession. Eventually, the Irish government formally requested aid from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

It was around this time, in the weeks leading up to Christmas 2010, that the following poem by Irish author Joseph O’Connor (brother of Sinéad O’Connor) was published in the Irish Times. In the midst of all the doom and gloom surrounding the state of Ireland’s economy at the time, it was a welcome change of tune. It is full of imagery and names that will be familiar to Irish readers, but it can be appreciated by people everywhere. I think it’s an anthem for those with the temerity to hope.


Perpetual budgets; our spirits are frightened,

Holes in the finances, tension is heightened

By feeling we’re buying a pig in a poke.

But there’s one thing untouchable: the treasure called hope.

Hope is commitment, courageous and tireless.

Hope is a song you might hear on the wireless.

Hope’s an old buddy who says: “Good to see ya!”

It’s Count John McCormack singing Ave Maria.

Hope is a currency opens all doors.

It can’t be downgraded by Standard and Poor’s.

It’s Colm Gooch Cooper; it’s Binchy and Heaney.

It’s Sean Og O hAilpin. It’s the Pogues. It’s Puccini.

It’s Robbie Keane. It’s Colm Toibin.

It’s walking through the frost in Stephen’s Green.

The Who, U2, The Quo, The Queen,

Kiddies dressing up for Halloween.

Hope is a fisherman waiting on a bite;

Hope kicks a ball in the park every night,

Two jumpers for goalposts, no crowd in the stand,

But hope knows it’s destined for Wembley in the end.

Fate has a foot that can kick us where it hurts,

When we’re waterlogged with worries and we’re losing our shirts,

But hope makes a dash from the halfway line

And it smashes in the winner — in extra time.

Hope is a home, it’s a lesson you learn.

Hope belts out a ballad like brave Mary Byrne

Defying all the losers who never even tried.

Hope is a bachelor. Hope is a bride.

Hope is the Sugarloaf. Hope is the sea.

It’s the voice of Van Morrison, soaring and free.

It’s the silence of The Burren, it’s the hills around Tara.

It’s the homes of Donegal and it’s the lakes of Connemara.

Hope is a dancehall, hope is a flirt,

Hope is going on when your feelings got hurt.

Hope is a mother who just had a baby.

The cynic says ‘no’. Hope says ‘maybe’.

It’s Bray’s Katie Taylor and she weaving and ducking

And it’s Crystal Swing from Cork (if you’re into Hucklebucking).

Hope is a homecoming, hope is a groove,

Hope is a mystery. Hope’s a smart move.

Advent is coming. The season of a light

That some say shone on the Bethlehem night,

And maybe it’s a fable, but believing it is free;

Hope says look at the stars, never know what you’ll see.

Hope’s an old soldier and hope is a birth,

It’s 33 miners raised up from the earth.

Hope is a sentence in Anne Frank’s journal.

Hope is the winter; it springs eternal.

It’s Imelda May’s blues, it’s a wild Irish rose,

It’s the feeling you get when the north wind blows

On a winter’s night and you’re safe inside.

It’s living with dignity, passion and pride.

Hope knows the stories of heroes and greats.

We’re the people of Larkin and Davitt and Yeats,

Better than a Taoiseach who causes distress

As he simpers in a cupboard called the tabloid press.

We are more than a balance sheet, a plus or a minus.

Don’t give the mediocrities permission to define us.

Gloom is a tomb

But desire is a door.

Anyone can open it.

That’s what it’s for.

Defeatists try to lock it, they’re afraid we’d be free.

But we’ll slip right through; hope is a key.

Hope is an armour; hope’s an escape,

Hope is a holiday anyone can take.

So powerful it should come with a Government Warning.

Hope could be the clothes


Putting on

In the morning.

– Joseph O’Connor


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Filed under Ireland, Money, Poetry, Politics

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