It was late 2015, and Ireland’s celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising were already starting to bore me into homicidality, and this was largely before a self-congratulatory ball had been kicked. It seemed to me that, if we were being honest (and we seldom are, either with ourselves or the world outside), any notion of celebration came wrapped inside a paradox, which in turn should have led to a question.
Broadly speaking, the question was this: should we have focused on celebrating a 100 year old event which ultimately led to Ireland achieving an element of independent statehood, or should we have instead thought long, hard and clearly about the events of the intervening 99 years, which brought about the effective end of that statehood?
The political establishment in Ireland will tell you that that statehood briefly came to an end in late 2010, when the nation lost control of its economic affairs to the IMF and the European Union, but that everything’s fine now, thanks very much.
This isn’t even slightly true. Irish budgets have to be scrutinised by the German Government long before Irish politicians (never mind the people) get to have a look at them. This conforms to no definition of independence that I’ve ever heard of.
In fact, what little control the Irish enjoy over their own affairs started to erode in earnest way back in 1992, when the nation received an influx of six billion smackers from the European Union, and the permanent Irish Government i.e. the senior ranks of the Civil Service, began to realize that Brussels was where all the real action lay.
By proving themselves the best little boys and girls in the Euro class, many high level Irish civil servants could look forward to massively lucrative posts in Europe once their careers in Dublin had run their natural course. The revolting populace have thus had to endure the implementation of every EU Directive imaginable, including the ones which are utterly toxic to Irish interests, as well as ones the French long ago said ‘merde’ to.
The peasants watched mutely as numerous national mineral and fishing rights were simply signed away, all for the greater Euro good, because the big civil servants are playing in the Champions League now baby, and there’s no way they or you are ever going back.
None of these are exactly new thoughts. I think they first began to crystallize when, in a former life, I got to peruse a long document known as the ‘National Spatial Strategy.’ Prepared by civil servants and brought out with great fanfare, it was supposed to set out all Ireland’s regional development priorities for a period of at least twenty years.
I turned page after glossy page bearing all these sci fi terms like ‘gateways’ and ‘hubs’ before finally realizing that the document didn’t contain a single concrete pledge to do anything. As a series of priorities, it contained less weight than a ball of fluff. There was something vague for almost everyone in the audience, which meant there was nothing for anyone, and the then Fianna Fail Government had undermined even the vague pieties of the National Spatial Strategy only a couple of months later.
A newer thought, however, is that far from the usual berating of Ireland by technocrats and would-be liberals for being backward and behind the times, we’ve actually been well ahead of the curve when it comes to virtual sovereignty. Last year’s election of Donald Trump in the US and the Brexit vote in Britain partly reflect the desperation among citizens that even the tiny measures of control they used to enjoy over their affairs have disappeared.
Sovereignty across the world has increasingly dived into black holes of committees run by Corporations and highly paid bureaucrats. In the case of Europe, the unelected EU bureaucrats are supposedly charged with representing the interests of ordinary European citizens in lucrative trade negotiations. In practice, they do no such thing. As Ireland has been learning since the early 90’s, senior bureaucrats are a social group all by themselves, and like all social groups since the dawn of history, they are there to represent their own interests, nothing more.
This is why, after every few years of ‘trade negotiations,’ the citizenry get bombed by concepts such the TTIP deal, intended to destroy what little remains of workers’ rights and to kill off small business and innovation by granting corporations the right to sue governments for grant aiding small business.
As I say, we’ve been experiencing this sort of thing in Ireland for decades now. Statehood has failed to make us evolve beyond the standpoint of peasants on the periphery of Empire, mutely sucking it all up. The rest of the world, with more of a tradition of actual democracy, isn’t taking it lying down just yet.
Naturally, none of the ten billion or so official back slapping events which took place in Ireland in 2016 addressed any of the above.
Nor did any of them address the other side of the question, which runs as follows: if Pearse, Connolly, Clarke and the rest had been granted prophecy in the very small hours of Easter Monday 1916, if they could have seen exactly what type of statelet their sacrifice would help to engender, would a single one of them have got out of bed on that nice Bank Holiday morning?
Ireland abu indeed.