Wednesday, 15 June 2011
When did Ireland's leaders become so weak?
Reading Fintan O'Toole's article on Ireland's deference to the EU and IMF got me thinking again about how far the country's leadership has fallen in recent decades.
It makes you wonder sometimes how the Republic even got independence in the first place given the lack of backbone displayed by our political leaders.
We lost some of our sovereignty last November when we took the EU-IMF bailout, sovereignty that took centuries to achieve.
People killed and died for that sovereignty, but you'd have to wonder what has happened since then, when did we change from being a people who defied the world's largest empire to one that will meekly accept the terms and conditions laid down by our EU 'partners'.
We are being expected to cover the tens of billions of losses Irish banks have made through insane lending policies – policies that were enabled by reckless loans from European banks and the blind eye turned by the ECB.
Not only that but the EU has decided that we have to pay a punitive rate of interest on the bailout – as an 'incentive' for us to reduce the deficit and get back into the markets as soon as possible – as if we needed an incentive to do that.
Ireland is in the third year of economic catastrophe - unemployment is close to 15% with the prospect that it will remain over 10% for years to come – with the inevitable emigration that will follow.
While the Minister for Health, James Reilly, has denied it will happen, the very fact that health managers are contemplating cutting immunisation schemes for children, possibly the most basic part of any country's health system, shows how far we have fallen as a country and society.
So where did it all go wrong?
It's hard to say, but the rot had certainly set in by 30th January 1972, Bloody Sunday. That night Taoiseach Jack Lynch rang British Prime Minister Ted Heath about the atrocity.
Remember that the British Army had just murdered 13 civilians in Derry, a fact that is now acknowledged by the British government.
Here is a transcript of that humiliating conversation, one in which our prime minister allowed himself treated like a buffoon.
I generally try to avoid saying I'm proud to be Irish or ashamed to be Irish, but reading the transcripts is one of the few occasions where I can say the latter.
The same type of deference was show when both Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny asked Tony Blair an David Cameron to release files on the Dublin-Monaghan bombing, the biggest crime in the history of the state.
They told us to go and jump, and our leaders backed down. All the while they've refused to co-operate with our efforts to protect our citizens, we've been congratulating ourselves about how great we are at co-operating with Britain's security forces to protect their citizens.
What has happened here in recent decades is that our leaders have reverted to a type of Neo-Redmonism.
The closest echoes of our current deference to other powers is John Redmond's deference to Britain.
His belief was that Ireland should plead with Britain to give us something we were entitled to as a right. When they said no he backed down, or even worse, sent tens of thousands of men to their deaths in the First World War in an incredibly naive, horrific and wasted attempt to curry favour with Britain.
The expected Greek default will give our leaders one last chance to redeem themselves and to put the interests of citizens before the interests of the banking sector.
At the moment the markets won't lend to us because they don't believe we can pay the debts back. Critics of default argue that burning bondholders would shut us out of the markets for years.
The thing is we don't have a choice, we can't cover these debts, so it's going to happen one way or another.
If and when the Greeks default Ireland will have a chance to say enough is enough, that sacrificing the Irish people for the sake of banking investors is no longer acceptable, and to reclaim some of our lost dignity.