Silently Irish

Sep 13th, 2010 | By | Category: Ireland

The Finance Minister announced this evening that the Government are going to make another €3 billion of cuts in spending, with veiled threats that this sum will not be enough.  €3 billion must be taken from the sick and the poor and the powerless in order that funds continue to be available to ensure the rich and powerful do not have to pay for the cost of their gamble in Anglo Irish Bank.

Who says we are protecting the rich and the powerful?  Not me, but David McWilliams who explains that working people are going to bear the cost of the Government bailout:

No matter what language the government tries to hide behind, the fact is that the taxpayer is having to pay for the Anglo Irish debacle

A grotesquely inadequate and plainly silly plan for Anglo was unveiled last week. Of course, there is a capitalist solution to this: close it down and force the creditors to face up to the responsibility of their own decision.

A capitalist commentator is saying that the haemorrhage of public funds into dead financial institutions must stop, but the Government continues regardless and people accept what the Government says.

It was always a mystifying question through history classes at school and college days that the Irish people were so tolerant.  Centuries of English domination prompted the odd revolt, but not until 1918 was there a national mood that said, ‘Enough is enough’.  It would be difficult to imagine that the English would have been so long-suffering had they been subject to such foreign occupation with its frequent misrule.

G.K. Chesterton discerned a trend amongst English working-people to become restive and uneasy when unhappy at the course of events.  His poem The Secret People captures a sense of the inscrutability of an ordinary people who, if pushed too far, would speak in no uncertain terms of what they thought.  The poem opens:

“Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget;
For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet.
There is many a fat farmer that drinks less cheerfully,
There is many a free French peasant who is richer and sadder than we.
There are no folk in the whole world so helpless or so wise.
There is hunger in our bellies, there is laughter in our eyes;
You laugh at us and love us, both mugs and eyes are wet:
Only you do not know us. For we have not spoken yet”.

Twice in the Twentieth Century those people went to the polling stations to elect governments that would bring radical changes in society.  In 1945, the war hero Churchill was ejected by working people because there was no desire to return to the 1930s.  In 1979, working people turned on the Labour Party because they wanted a lifting of the burden of taxation and bureaucracy.  Attlee and Thatcher became the two revolutionary figures in modern English history.

There seems no prospect of radical change in Ireland.

An Old Testament prophet would be uttering thundering denunciations of a society where the Government can lose €23 billion propping up Anglo Irish Bank and tell working people they must pay for it.   A biblical response to the collapse of the economy, the failure of the health service, the lengthening of the dole queues, the cuts in education, the repossession of houses, the disintegration of family life, the burden of taxation on working people, and the culture of corruption and cronyism, would demand a John the Baptist-like figure striding across our television screens with calls for repentance.

There is no response.  There is just quiet resignation and getting on with things.  There is a sense that voting would make little difference for there is little more confidence in the opposition party than there is in the government.

Yet in the land of Pearse and Connolly and Larkin, there must surely be people like those Chesterton met in England.  There must surely be people who believe in a righteous and just society.  Perhaps it is just that they have not spoken, and, when they do speak, no-one knows what they might say.  Please, if you are one of them, say something.

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  1. A plaintive nudge to action.

  2. I wish someone would do something. Labour lining up with Fine Gael will simply deliver more of the same.

  3. Nice article, thanks for the link on David Mc Williams site.

  4. I like your outrage, Ian, and we surely need prophets to speak truth to power. But just what exactly is the something you would like someone to do?

  5. I hope, in vain, for some new political movement. An Attlee would be nice; even a Thatcher would have more integrity than what we have. But all we have is Fine Gael-Labour who will simply give us more of the same.

    Perhaps some campaign of civil disobedience, or some prophetic action by the bishops, would rattle the bars. Perhaps a boycotting of the Revenue Commissioners until there is a regime that is fair.

    Anything would be better than a society where people think that moaning on radio phone-ins, or complaining to friends in the pub is actually going to change anything.

  6. We do need prophets, but I see no reason to believe that a new political movement is likely to solve much.

    Attlee’s party responded magnificently to people’s desire for change – particularly that of soldiers overseas, who probably tipped the election. I’d draw the line at a Thatcher (:() – she beggered the Brits to break the miners, sited foreign missiles in England’s green & pleasant land, and introduced the poll tax which fell heaviest on the poor – no thank you!

    As I see it, Labour has not been corrupted by planning and rich sugar-dadies as FF & FG have been, and Gilmore would make a fine first Labour Taoiseach – but then I’ve been a Labour member for many years.

    Of course you’re right that moaning and whinging is pointless – I suggest now is the time to organise to get the villains out – I find it hard to believe that the same people who have sunk us in the muck have the brass neck to maintain that they are the only ones who can pull us out of it!

    I hope and pray that the Spirit will lead us in that direction – but may thy will be done O Lord,!

  7. Ian,
    I’m surprised at the positive reference to Thatcher. I thought that it was the deregulation and the worship the gods of the market that she and her fellow ideologues promoted that created the conditions that brought us to where we are today.

    I have a real sense of despair about the situation. Watching Freefall on RTE on Monday night and listening to the refusal of the Cowan’s and Ahern’s to accept any responsibility for what went on sickened me. I even sense the Ahern is being sanitised for a run for the Presidency!

    I agree that Labour with FG won’t change much unless by some miracle Labour is the larger party. Gilmore might be able to bring more change than if Labour were the “junior” party.

    I wish there were more credible church voices like yours that were speaking and writing about where we are today.

  8. As someone who personally despised Thatcher, it’s not possible to deny that, in the court of history, she has held her place. What she did have was considerably more integrity than the leadership here.

    I fear Labour TDs will simply accept power for its own sake.

  9. Ahern? President? Oh dear.
    Which Mary can pip him to the post?

  10. I don’t have a vote for the Park, I’m still one of Betty Windsor’s subjects – so you can elect whomsoever you like. 😉

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