Submitted by George Callaghan…
Democracy, a written constitution, a superb human rights record, prosperity, strong economic growth, a clean environment and an enviable educational system: the Republic of Ireland has it all. In almost a century of independence our state has achieved more than many thought possible. It begs the question: is the Irish model one which most of the world should strive to emulate?
The attitudinal revolution has been staggering in a quarter of a century. Cast your mind back to the early 1990s. We were still governed by state of emergency legislation. Drug gangs wreaked havoc in Dublin. Homosexualism was illegal. Contraception was severely restricted. Unwed mothers were widely castigated and politicians still feared a lash of the crozier. Child abuse in the Catholic Church was widespread but no one dared tackle it. Misogynistic, ultramontane, incense waggers and wankers weaved their wicked magic over our body politic and our bodies. Our economy was the weakest in Western Europe. Erin was the sick man of Europe. Unemployment was obstinately high. Almost half of all youngsters departed our shores. The Northern Conflict raged on partly thanks to a jaw dropping axis Colonel Gaddafi and certain Irish-Americans. The republican movement and its loyalist counterparts engaged in their cruel and barbaric attempt to destroy freedom. The Crown Forces and the Irish security forces gallantly battled against the ghouls.
Where are we now? We are one of the 10 richest countries in the world. Contraception is widely available. We have little emigration but a huge amount of immigration. We have a Taoiseach who is half-Indian Hindu and a self-proclaimed homosexual. We are no longer a virtual theocracy. We are a nation at ease with ourselves.
Eire is one of the happiest, freest and richest countries on the planet. We are a beacon of ordered liberty. The stranglehold of the episcopate has been broken. As Jansenism no longer holds us in thrall we are able to celebrate libertinism. The Catholic Church is still there for such as wish to adhere to its preachments. The unacceptance of those who are unnuptially solemnised is over.
Ireland has almost no natural resources. Only ten years ago we first started to exploit our gas reserves. Our wealth and success has been accomplished by good governance and education. We have enriched ourselves through IT, financial services, agriculture and tourism. Our exports are in demand all over the world. Everyone recognizes a few Irish brands.
We have achieved magnificent feats in numerous fields. From education, to music, to sport and to film we have so often set the world ablaze. We are an island of saints and scholars.
Our stars are honoured in Hollywood. Our writers enthrall the world. Our musicians electrify people across the globe. Our sports teams have accomplished more wins in more sports than any country of a comparable size. In rugby we have won the Six Nations and even the triple crown in the past 10 years.
The Rose of Tralee has reinvented itself and managed to stay relevant among a generation saturated in cynicism and indifference. The Rose still attracts viewers overseas and no shortage of nubile contestants. Irish ladies of Zambian and Indian blood have been crowned ‘Rose’ in the past decade. This reflects the browning face of Ireland. We are an increasingly multiethnic people.
Our state has successfully absorbed considerable immigration from Nigeria, Pakistan, China, Romania, Poland and Malawi. There has been very little racial animus. Social harmony is a credit to us. Even our indigenous minority the Travelers seldom claim to be discriminated against now.
The Irish Defence Forces are very small. However, they have more than pulled their weight in United Nations missions. The Irish Army defends humanity. Overseas they have held the Tricolour high for many years.
Our electoral system is superb. The single transferable vote provides and equitable system. The full gamut of public opinion is represented. Our presidents are elected by a fair and transparent system. The legitimacy of the head of state is unchallenged.
The Irish political system often produces coalition governments. But we do not lack for stability and continuity despite that. We finally have a leadership cohort that does us credit instead of the liars and mumblers of the Ahern-Cowen era. We are the land of the Blarney Stone and yet we were cursed by doyens who had missed lesson one of public speaking.
The Irish media does a brilliant job of keeping us informed and entertained. RTE and the newspapers are a model to the world.
We have no enemies. People in other nations are fond of us. Hence the ubiquitous Irish pub. We are associated with good cheer, music, conviviality, fun and creativity.
We have forged strong bonds of fraternity with people of Irish blood all across the world. Our kith and kin beyond the seas are more likely than ever to wish to resettle in their ancestral homeland. Besides people of distant Irish descent who are citizens of other nations there are many Irish emigrants who rest beneath the shield of foreign governments. They are invariably received most cordially. That surely reflects credit on us. Similarly people of other nationalities now reside under the Irish aegis and there is remarkably little friction between them and the Irish.
We would delude ourselves if we pretended that there are no problems. We have one of the highest university attendance levels in the globe at 50%. But as Kingley Amis said ‘more means worse’. We have made acquiring a degree too easy and thereby diminished its value. We have a greying population and a pensions timebomb like so many advanced economies.
Our state is a member of the European Union. The Eurobarometer polls show that we have the highest pro EU sentiment of any EU member state. We are not a new contributor to the EU. It is was wrong that the European Union and our own elite did not accept the people’s will in voting against the Treaty of Nice and the Treaty of Lisbon.
The hand of the state lies heavily on the people. The government encroaches inexorably into the lives of the citizens. Our anti-smoking policy is one of the most intrusive in the world. The state says it is doing to promote public health. In its own terms it must be acknowledged that this policy has been crowned with success.
Our crime rate is one of the highest in Europe. We have a persistent drug abuse problem. Criminalisation is clearly not working if the objective is to prevent people from taking these substances which are so insalubrious. Why is prohibition persisted with when we reap no reward and it only aggravates the social harms arising from the consumption of narcotics and suchlike? Is it that securocrats want a high crime rate? Cui bono? It is not Mr and Mrs Taxpayer for sure.
A few members of the Muslim community in Ireland are fractious. There are unreasonable demands for everyone else to convenience what is a minority even among the tiny Muslim community.
Neutrality has been a cornerstone of our foreign policy since the foundation of the state. Dublin rebuffed pressing overtures to join NATO in 1949 and thereafter. The ostensible ground for so doing was that it would be unconscionable to accede to the Atlantic Alliance whilst the fourth green field formed parcel of her Britannic Majesty’s realm. But not we accept that Northern Ireland solely and rightfully appertains to the UK and shall remain so unless and until the people of Northern Ireland determine to the contrary. Nonetheless the boast of neutrality is more honoured in the breach than in the observance. We are mad keen members of the increasingly militarized EU. We are also signed up to the so-called Partnership for Peace. Ahern granted permission for US warplanes to refuel in Ireland en route to bomb Iraq. Neutrality indeed! We would have allowed Iraqi aircraft to refuel on a mission to bomb the United States? Of course not. If we want to be neutral then we actually need to act in a neutral fashion. Away with the hypocritical pretence of being a neutral actor. There might be some advantage accruing to Eire if we are formal members of a military alliance. We ought to make our minds up on this one.
The Irish Republic is one of the best governed and most humane countries in the world. Other nation states would do well to take a leaf out of our book. The United Kingdom in particular would profit to study and emulate our magnificent example.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.