As a nation we need to consider whether or not the Ireland which our forefathers envisaged after independence, has outlived its usefulness. Not long after independence of the 26 counties had been achieved, the enormity of the task of building a Nation from scratch dawned on the then and subsequent governments.Probably half of our population living today do not understand what it was like to have no electricity, no sewerage, no piped water, no telephone, no street lights and no tarmac roads. This was the Ireland which we inherited from our occupiers.
Effectively, we had nothing. Nothing, except the determination to succeed and build a nation of which all of it people, both at home and abroad could all be proud. There were many many courageous, dedicated and capable women and men down through the years, who turned what was effectively a bog field, into a modern thriving economy and society.
There were no JCB’s, tower cranes, dumper trucks, forklifts, electric winches, safety regulations or protection for those who were injured on the job. There was no social welfare system, access to health care was for the elite few as was a reasonable education, women were denied the right to vote and the ‘church’ ruled with the iron fist and hypocrisy of a crackpot dictator. They were hard times but the people accepted and understood what was required, if we were to make the transformation and to stand tall among the Nations of the World.
Politically, we were still grappling with the after-effects of the Civil War. Where family fought with family, brother fought with brother and neighbour fought with neighbour. There were many bitter and deep divisions which poisoned our society and did so up until very recently. The transformation from bog field to a modern Country did not take place by accident. It was a result of decades of dedication and hard back breaking work, from so many of our people. This was a time of learning, of experimentation and of vision.
Indeed, if there is one thing that marked out the difference between the people and leaders who have gone before us and those now, it is that today there is no vision or indeed leadership. As a nation we are lurching from one crisis to another, most of our own making, like a drunk who knows where they want to be but hasn’t a clue how to get there. Funny that.
The people who went before us held a vision of Ireland in which all where equal and all were free. Free to pursue their lives without persecution, this was a very different Ireland from the one in which they grew up. They held a vision for a different and better Ireland in their hearts and they were determined to make it a reality. It was accepted that all the people of the Nation had a part to play.
There was many mistakes made along the way be they politically, socially and economically but this was to be expected from an embryonic nation. It is quite ironic, incredibly sad and upsetting that the biggest mistakes of all have been made by a government in our lifetime, which we elected. It is if we have learned nothing from the past. We appear to have forgotten that the Republic of Ireland is not simply a name, a flag or a symbol. Ireland is the very heart that beats in each and every one of us.
Being Irish is that warm glow of pride that we feel watching our nation’s representative’s rise to the very pinnacle of achievement on the international stage, in any number of disciplines. There is seemingly no end to the talent which emanates from this small nation. This is who we are and who we have always been. The question now is whether we can recognise the strengths that we possess and make them work for the good of all of us in what is our greatest challenge yet i.e. the very survival of our ‘Ireland’.
On an individual level, those who could or those with the ‘right’ connections allowed material wealth to become a substitute for a true vision of what our country could and should be. To be fair they could probably not be expected to know any better. Over the last 15 years, practically all of those who could, behaved like a teenager after getting their first wage packet. It was all about them, all about what they could buy, all about how much they could show others how much they could buy, it was all about being a modern consumer. It was, simply, all about them!
The vast majority of those who benefited from this newly acquired ‘wealth’ choose to forget that they were part of a country which by extension is society. They also seemed forget that it is only through sharing a collective vision of what type of society we want to live in, can we succeed as a nation of which we can all be proud. The ignorance and incompetence in choosing effective, honest Government and the heretofore collective apathy, whereby nearly four out of ten people did not bother to vote, needs to end, now.
We should decide now that the Republic of Ireland up until now should be referred to as Version 1.0, and that version should be confined to history. It is time we designed a new operating system from the ground up. This is possible now, precisely because all is lost. It is the silver lining in an otherwise dark and dismal cloud. It is time to launch Ireland Version 2.0 !
The follow up to this article, which deals with Ireland Version 2.0 and how we get there, will be published in this Sunday’s Independent (30th May) and will be posted here on Monday 31st.