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From: Irish Political Review: Editorials
Date: May, 2010
By: Editorial

Existential Crises

The Irish body politic is broken—so says the Irish Times, taking the wish for the deed.

"We are not the citizens any more of a vibrant, confident state, but of a broken polity.  We are no longer the masters we believed ourselves to be of our own fates, but hapless players of hands dealt us by others, by huge uncontrollable forces beyond our understanding.  Old attachments and certainties to and about institutions like Church and State, to which our parents clung with what now seems naive optimism, and which to a great extent defined their sense of identity for good and ill, were castles built on sand…" (St. Patrick's Day)

What has changed in political life in recent years to warrant all of this?

Well, the PDs, of which the Editor of the Irish Times was a fervent founder member, has exterminated itself.  That is saddening for her of course, but how did it affect the "polity".  What it signified was utter failure to disrupt the "polity".  The purpose of the PDs was to break up Fianna Fail, which has been the stable core of the "polity" for eighty years, whether in Government or Opposition.  But, while the PDs bit hard, the dog it was that died.

The only other change we can think of is that the Greens stopped being a mere protest movement against the way of the world, became a party with serious political intent, and joined Fianna Fail in Government.

Fianna Fail is in office, while the secondary parties, of Left and Right, are trying to get themselves joined up to form a Coalition Government when Fianna Fail eventually loses an election.  If our grandparents came back to have a look, they'd wonder why things never change here.

Fintan O'Toole has said that "we are in the middle of an existential crisis for this State" (20.4.10).  While that does not apply to the "polity", it might be applied to Labour.

The Labour Party doesn't know what it is supposed to be.  It has never since it stood down in 1918 so that there might be a clear electoral mandate for an independent Republic — and four years later contested the bogus Treaty Election and joined the Free State Dail for the dismantling of the Republic.

It is now in the hands of the Stickies, the 'Official Republicans' of 1970, who were 'national liberation' terrorists for a while, were Moscow style Marxist-Leninists for another while, and were Ulster Unionists as well, before becoming social-democrats and joining the Labour Party.  They took it over and remade it into a businessman's party.  The latter change had just been completed  when the business crisis struck, and memories had to be cudgelled in order to recall the old, discarded slogans.

Fine Gael forgot long ago what it is supposed to be.  It just hangs around waiting for a lucky spin of the wheel of fortune.  If it gets into office after the next election, it will not be the first time that it formed a government with former bank-robbers.

Ten years ago, the grandparents would have noticed a great change.  Haughey had launched us on "uncontrollable forces beyond our understanding".  We rode those forces recklessly for a decade and a half — there was really no other way to ride them.  Sinn Fein was a thing of the past.  But the cosmopolitan world into which we threw ourselves went awry (as it was always certain that it would, the only uncertainty being the date) and threw us back on ourselves again.  Arthur Griffith would not have been surprised by either phase of that development.  He did not devise Sinn Fein as an ideal to set against the world.  He was for involvement in the world, but he saw that the world was not a functional unity, but an interaction between distinct national parts.

There is no real doubt that Ireland has been a substantial net gainer from its adventure with the "uncontrollable forces beyond our understanding".

There are no general rules for success in the pseudo global market, only particular judgment from moment to moment.  We recall in the 1990s, when the USA and Britain were levering open protected economies in Asia, having tolerated Protection during the Cold War as a measure for minimising the appeal of Communism.  The anti-Protection campaign was waged as an anti-Corruption campaign.  Dr. Mahatir of Malaysia refused to open the economy to the "uncontrollable forces".  He was denounced as a corrupt Godfather of crony capitalism by Ameranglia — and, of course, by the Irish Times, the voice of Whitehall in Ireland.  He paid no heed.  Malaysia stayed healthy during the "Asian flu" contracted by the obedient states a few years later.  And one does not hear of it as a basket case today.

Our parents built castles on sand, the Irish Times charges.  It does not say where else there was to build them.  Ameranglian capitalism, which gained the power to run most of the world in 1945, and the rest of it in 1990, determined that the medium of economic activity should be like shifting sands.  In America itself, ever since the genocide, cities have come and gone like mushrooms.  The culture is dedicated to flux.  And the condition of permanent flux, which it chose for itself, obliged it to throw the world into flux as it gained control over it.

We cannot establish dominance over the USA, or even over Britain.  The terms of existence have been set for us.  So let us get on with it, and let us praise such castles on sand as we manage to build.

It is not because the Irish Times thinks there is solid building ground somewhere that it carps about what was done here.

The existential crisis which Fintan O'Toole is going through, on behalf of the insensitive state which is failing to experience it, is no doubt connected with the inability of the Tribunals to do what the Irish Times itself failed in its ambitious attempt to do.  The Moriarty Tribunal, as reported on another page, is ending as farce, having forgotten a letter it had from the relevant Attorney General, and conversations it had with him, and remembering a letter which, as far as can be ascertained, it was not sent.  And this was all because Denis O'Brien saw the draft report expressing fact-free opinion and let it be known that he would take legal action to force the Tribunal to face the facts.  And O'Brien is a rich man, which makes him obnoxious.  He made his money in the market-place, instead of being gifted it in the Irish Times hot-house, or drawing it in exorbitant legal fees in the Tribunal racket, and he offended nature by not going West British as he got rich.

It cost him an awful lot of money to bring the Tribunal to order in the handling of evidence, and in curbing the fact-free reporting on the basis of loose procedures which a Court had judged to be lawful in a case brought by Liam Lawlor's widow (in respect of a different Tribunal).  Tribunal procedures have been slipshod and uncertain, more appropriate to vendettas than to either civil or criminal law.  And law is in any case a kind of commodity — the more you can buy of it, the more notice it will take of you.  The unusual feature of this case is that a very wealthy capitalist was willing to spend an awful lot of money to put manners on a Tribunal which could have done him no real damage if he had let it be — but might have done great damage to the country, even to the point of giving it an existential problem.

R.V. Comerford

The Irish Times on April 9th carried a report of a launch of a book by Professor R.V. Comerford, who himself recently published a book rejecting the 'two nations' view of the Northern crisis on the ground that nations are imagined entities, made by human contrivance, rather than products of nature, like dogs and cats.  

The 'two nations' view of this magazine was set out forty years ago on the grounds that nations were historical forms brought about by human contrivance, and not natural products, and were therefore subject to change.  Professor Comerford, like the Tribunals, forms fact-free opinions about facts.

The book he launched is Outside The Glow:  Protestants And Irishness by Heather Crawford.  According to the report, it concludes that because of "memories", and "residual religious ethic and cultural tension", Protestants could not have "an authentic Irish identity".  Religious, ethic and cultural tensions are pretty comprehensive.  If the GAA etc. are binned as divisive, Protestants can then have "authentic Irish identity" — whatever that will be then.

There are many Protestants for whom being Irish does not seem a problem, and who do not see being English as the authentic way of being Irish.  They are intimidated and brainwashed, according to the Anglican Bishop of Cork.
If it is impossible for Protestants to be Irish after living for 90 years in an Irish state, surely that suggests that national differences, if not quite products of nature, are far from being imaginary.  Professor Comerford needs to get his act together!

The British Election

All 'parties' in the North are contesting the British Election as usual without having any real stake in it.
The only real party is Sinn Fein, because it is an all-Ireland party which has the normal aim of a political party, which is to form the Government of a state.  The state which it aspires to govern is not Northern Ireland, which is not a state, but the Irish state, in which it hopes to include the Six Counties.

The Ulster Unionist Party used to have a token connection with the Tory Party.  It ended that connection in 1972, when a Tory Government abolished the old Stormont system.  Last year, having last heavily to the DUP, it sought to avoid extinction by becoming part of the Tory Party.  In the 1980s, when there was an agitation in the North to bring it within the British party system, the UUP opposed it.  Now, by becoming part of the Tory Party, it lost its only MP, whose British alignment was with the Labour Party.

Having declared itself to be part of the Tory Party, and to be engaged in a new departure, it then made overtures to the DUP for an electoral agreement very much on the old Unionist lines.  A small Tory group had been allowed to establish itself in the North some years ago.  It included a number of Catholics.  The merger of the UUP with the Tory Party brought these Tories with it.  When the UUP, under its peculiar new name, began negotiations with the DUP for an election pact, some of these members objected strenuously that they had not become members of the Tory Party to be transferred into Orange Unionism, and they refused to stand as candidates.  In order to retain them, Cameron had to rule an election pact with the DUP absolutely out of the question.

As we go to print, we learn that the DUP and the UUP have agreed not to contest the Fermanagh/South Tyrone seat, but to support an independent candidate, Rodney Connor.  Or that they have decided separately to do this without agreeing about it — they have made an agreement without "official knowledge" of it, as Mrs. Thatcher said about her arms deal with Iran on behalf of President Reagan.

It is not clear if Cameron turned a blind eye to this chicanery by the Ulster section of his party.

There is no real difference between the SDLP and Sinn Fein, except that Sinn Fein is much better at tending to the political interests of the Catholic community than the SDLP is.  There is perhaps a vestige of historical difference from the time of the war, but during the war that difference was essentially spurious.  The SDLP at one point considered a new departure in alliance with the UUP but never embarked on it.  In the absence of any difference of principle or policy now, Sinn Fein proposed an election pact.  The SDLP refused to consider it.  The question now is whether the SDLP will set its own fantasising life above the interests of the Catholic community in Fermanagh, despite the Pan-Partitionist arrangement between the supposed Tories and the DUP.


Existential Crises.  Editorial
"It Takes A Worried Man To Sing A Worried Song".  Jack Lane (Garret FitzGerald and Europe)
Readers' Letters:  There is time in life for Romance.  Tom Doherty; Irish Army And The Cutbacks.  Sean Mac Suaine
Poems.  Stateless.  Wreathes For The Writhing.   Wilson John Haire
13th Annual Roger Casement Symposium.  Tim O'Sullivan
Meath History Workshop.  Announcement
Shorts from the Long Fellow (Anglo-Irish Bank;  NAMA;  Re-Capitalisation;  Quinn Insurance;  Media & Crisis;  Moriarty Tribunal:  Rwanda Footsies With Tutsies
Presidential Cringe.  Jack Lane
Ireland's Turkish War.  Wilson John Haire
DIB Blues (3).  Elizabeth Bowen.  Jack Lane
The Irish At Gallipoli.  Report of Mark Cronin, Pat Walsh Letters
Es Ahora.  Julianne Herlihy  (Matthew Elderfield;  Joe Lee;  Irish Times People;  Elma Collins
Israel-Bashing.  David Morrison (unpublished letter)
The Spy Who Grew Up With The Bold. Manus O'Riordan (Betjeman, a Spy?  Pt.4)
Biteback:  Ataturk & The President.  Dr. Pat Walsh
Gallipoli, The Criminals & The Crime.  Dr. Pat Walsh
From 'Your War' to 'Our War'.  Dr. Pat Walsh
A Spooky Story.  Seán McGouran
Does It Stack Up?  Michael Stack (The Courts;  Poor Box,  Public Servants;  NAMA;  Corporate Enforcer;  Energy)
Labour Comment, edited by Pat Maloney:  Urban Ireland Says Enough!