November has arrived and the hour has gone back. It’s the month when the beauty of autumn’s falling leaves turns into slippery slush and the clouds hurtle apocalyptically through the sky.
The gloomy weather is equalled only by the incessant downpour of economic doom. Any day now, we are relentlessly told, the IMF with the full blessing of Satan is going to invade our God fearing little country and rob the ice-creams from our children’s hands.
Ireland needs a hero and we’ve probably asked too much of Johnny Logan and Ray Houghton already, so perhaps its time for someone new.
In 35-year-old Fergus O’Neill from Dundrum in Dublin we may have found a new poster boy for the defence of Irish sovereignty.
And when we say poster boy we mean that literally, because through a new series of posters the graphic artist has set about raising €42billion in an effort to halve Ireland’s banking debt.
O’Neill’s idea came from the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ posters produced by the British government during World War II. But he “wanted something that communicated to Irish people” and so took the quintessentially Irish phrase ‘Keep Going Sure It’s Grand’ and made it his campaign’s motto.
“I originally did the poster last June or July,” says O’Neill. “I think that phrase reflects something which I believe is in the very fabric of being Irish. If that’s good or bad you can decide but I personally believe it’s a good thing, it’s what makes us Irish.”
For every poster that he sells O’Neill has promised to give €1 to the exchequer. So far, and you can see the receipts on his Facebook site, he has contributed €56 to a rather baffled but grateful Department of Finance and while it may not seem like much, the contributions are growing every week.
The first cheque he handed over was for just €7 but his latest was €19 and O’Neill believes there is much more out there.
“I want to sell this to every Irish pub in the world,” he says with a bit of a grin. “I think everyone who claims Irish ancestry should buy one as well. I mean depending where you look, there’s something like 20 or 40 million people in America alone who claim Irish ancestry and I think each of them should buy a poster. That’d be great cash for the exchequer.”
He has no problem admitting that it would also be good cash for him but points out that that in turn is again good for the exchequer. Anyway, surely every hero deserves a reward.
“I’m just a cog in the wheel here,” he explains. “I’m just trying to do whatever I can and obviously if I’m making money, isn’t that good for the exchequer? And I mean I’m not going anywhere, so I’m going to spend it too.”
Can’t argue with that really, can we?
O’Neill, who has been a graphic designer for 15 years, says that the posters, which start at a very reasonable €20, are already selling all over the world and are doing particularly well in Europe. This is no mean feat when you consider the project started at 7.16p.m. (1916 on the 24 hour clock) on September 30th.
“I think the message is resonating with Irish people,” he explains. “It doesn’t matter where you are; if you’re Irish and you see the poster it strikes a note inside you. I have sold them to addresses in Scotland, London, Denmark, Spain, France, Austria, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Canada, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Clonshaugh and Ballyhooly.”
But of course, and this is another trait that is typically Irish, the project has had its knockers.
“Somebody asked me ‘isn’t that the attitude that go us into this?’” he says. “Maybe it is but we can’t deny what we are, that’s what makes us Irish. Are we not allowed some mistakes? I want this to be a positive thing but a small minority take it negatively.”
However, judging by the ‘Keep Going Sure It’s Grand’ Facebook page and its 2,500 fans the majority are taking it in the spirit it is meant and many of them are making additions of their own.
One fan, somewhat cruelly, depending on your point of you, has added a picture of the recently ‘painted’ Mary Harney and simply added ‘Keep Going Sure It’s Grand’ while another, and this is a bit dark, shows the captain of the Titanic endorsing the same motto.
O’Neill hopes that in whatever far-flung corner of the world these posters go to, they will raise spirits. He is encouraging people to post photos of the posters wherever they are hung – beside “their statues of the sacred heart or wherever they may be”.
With the help of his beloved black cat Budgie (which he insists is as cruel as the budgie we are going to get on December 7th ) the designer says he is doing something instead of waiting for something to be done and it is clear that he for one is tired of the national moanfest that has consumed the country.
“I have had up to the back teeth with this bollox,” he says…frankly. “With this consensus, all this nonsense and hyperbole that’s being spouted by everyone. It’s just time to get on with it. Get off your arse and do something, that’s what I’m saying. Get on with it.”
Can’t argue with that really, can we?
You can purchase one of the ‘Keep Going Sure It’s Grand’ posters along with other items at http://grandgrand.bigcartel.com or at The Irish Design Centre, Bow Lane, Dublin 2