By James Falconer
Where is the revolution in Ireland following the political and banking scandal? Since the bubble supernovae in 2008, there has been a campaign of fear orchestrated by the political class and elements of the media against the people of Ireland. It is aimed to demoralise the spirit of ordinary citizens who are not responsible for the reckless gambling of speculators, politicians and bankers. If the European Central Bank wants to cover professional investors’ losses, let it do so with its own money. We’ve been led to believe that we, the ordinary taxpayers, are actually responsible for the mess we find ourselves in today. It is time we tried to educate ourselves as much as possible. The right answers only come on the tail of the right questions. The biggest problem is our collective apathy.
Why have we not faced up to the endemic corruption inherent in our culture? When the house of cards collapsed in 2008, where was the mass mobilisation, the huge protests on the streets, calling for, in fact demanding, not only the resignation of the whole government, but the imprisonment of those guilty of corruption? The massive problem in Ireland has been that the bacillus of corruption has too long been tolerated by a janus minded public that are capable of self-delusion and a jaded apathy. This has all culminated in the rule of law being gravely undermined. There has been a substantial proportion of the public willing to put up with it. Why hasn’t there been a Garda or Revenue initiated investigation into corruption by a senior political figure except in response to prior media or tribunal investigations. Inexplicably, those investigations have been consistently ineffective at putting those responsible behind bars.
The Mahon tribunal dismantled the whole edifice of lies constructed by Bertie Ahern and his cronies. Following this, many people felt deceived by a master dissembler. But in order to be fooled, you have to believe. Corruption in Ireland is the result not of innocence, but wilful ignorance, not just wrongdoing but passive collusion. What happened was not belief in Bertie Ahern’s lies but something more subtle and more characteristic of Irish culture: a suspension of disbelief.
The Mahon tribunal cost the Irish taxpayer €300 million to find out what most informed people already suspected. Essentially, it cost us a huge amount of money to find out we’d been robbed of a huge amount of money. What really should be turning stomachs is the complete lack of accountability – where’s the justice? The Mahon tribunal was a legal affair, where are the prison sentences for those found guilty of defrauding the state? There is very little thirst for real justice in this country. If you go into a shop, steal something and are apprehended you will face the consequences in a court of law. However, if you happen to be in the ‘golden circle’ you can defraud the state of millions or more accurately, billions, and get away with it. This smacks of nothing other than white collar crime. Yet, we still accept it.
Politicians have been let away with murder and there is a fatalistic sense that nothing can change. Why have no politicians or bankers being imprisoned for causing the collapse of the economy? There seems to be a feeling amongst a lot of people in Ireland ‘ah sure, what can we do?’ Iceland is the perfect example, but we’re not told anything about Iceland in our mainstream media. Iceland fundamentally refused to socialise private debt, the people gathered outside their House of Parliament in Reykjavik until the whole government were jeered and heckled out of the building. They had to do ‘the walk of shame’. Have a look: http://youtu.be/OFyOdJWt02Y. You’ll see that a revolution doesn’t have to be bloody and nasty as is commonly perceived. Furthermore, people are very quick to take to the streets in Greece and Spain in outright disgust at the public appropriation of private debt. Where’s the Irish resistance?
The political system in Ireland is dysfunctional. It is the primary cause of the debacle we are still experiencing. The country needs to get up off its posterior and take back the Republic, which exists in name alone. Irish apathy to austerity is a frightful reality. Wake up Ireland.
Indeed misery has a short memory. Does 2+2=5? Fianna Fáil is now the most popular party in Ireland. There’s a perfectly coherent sentence, ‘the most popular party.’ Who could have predicted this back in 2008? It seems that the Irish didn’t react to the financial catastrophe with anything revolutionary. Instead, we elected practically the same party only with a different name and colour (Fine Gael) – somehow expecting different results? Sadly, it looks like we’ll see the old treacherous brigade return to their snug nests in the Dáil sooner rather than, never.
It can be claimed that we’re a very patriarchal society, and it too often appears that the masses have neither the time or respect for any radical intellectual thought or even much reasonable/rational thought. Why are we so conservative? We are generally dismissive of anything that we don’t hear on the Six One News, or read in the Irish Times/Irish Independent; intelligence in Ireland often appears graded on one’s ability to understand and in some cases, to recite, what we see or read from these outlets.
It was Montesquieu who observed that ‘Those who govern have a power which, in some measure, has need of fresh vigour every day.’ This fresh vigour is released through the various forms of media which have wilfully given a disgraced party like Fianna Fáil a regular platform. Representatives of Fianna Fáil have been repeatedly invited on RTE talk shows, been given front-page articles in leading newspapers and have slowly but surely crawled back to the summit of Irish politics. Hold on a minute, isn’t this the party that’s left us almost €70,000 billion in debt to our European and International masters? This is not our debt. Are we going to vote them back in again? How about a widespread disengagement from representative politics? Does misery really have such a short memory?
2 + 2 = 5 is often used as a succinct and vivid representation of an illogical statement, especially one made and maintained to suit an ideological agenda. Its common use originates from its inclusion in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, where it is contrasted with the true, mathematical phrase 2 + 2 = 4. Orwell’s protagonist, Winston Smith, uses it to consider the possibility that the state might declare 2 + 2 = 5 as a fact; he ponders that if everybody believes in it, does that make it true? One might shudder to think that if there was a general election tomorrow Fianna Fáil would most likely be elected into government. This is our present reality and at this point, one may be unable to get de Tocqueville’s ‘People get the government they deserve’ out of one’s head because let’s face it, every people deserve the regime it is willing to endure. It seems that in most other countries governments are afraid of the people; conversely, here, the people seem afraid of the government. Fianna Fáil have very rarely lost their grip of the Irish electorate since there succession to power in 1932. Their occasional loss of power seems to come in widespread cycles, boom and bust.
Essentially, what happened in the Celtic Tiger era was that it all became unstuck and many segments of society realised how they were being played and abused. Séan Lemass said that Fianna Fáil’s achievement was to manage to juggle a whole series of balls (segments of society) and not drop any of them; Brian Cowen dropped them all and other parties grabbed them.
The major flaw with the Irish electorate seems to be that we are on the whole, apolitical, and appear so unconscious of anything other than the same old tripe. However, at the same time, manage to appear so entrenched in ignorant meaningless righteousness that there’s undoubtedly a long road ahead before we awaken from our dogmatic Fianna Fáil slumber.