‘Ladywell’, said the signpost.
Ladywell? was there not somewhere in the North called that?
Not Ladywell, Maryfield. A process of association.
Maryfield, the home of the secretariat for the implementation of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement. Looking back 25 years, it seems extraordinary how the very limited proposals of the agreement could have raised such opposition. Being a supporter of the Agreement, as I was, was not something to admit outside of a circle of close friends; the level of hostility was overwhelming. Something like a quarter of a million people took to the street in one protest march.
The Agreement taught a lasting lesson – popular opinion is futile in the face of unyielding authority. Maryfield was a symbol of a government that was not for turning.
Watching the Irish government hand billions to banks whose greed has brought calamity upon the country, there is a similar determination to ignore all popular opinion. David McWilliams and Vincent Browne and Fintan O’Toole and all the dissident voices can huff and puff; the letters columns of the Irish Times can be filled with indignation; People Before Profit can organize protests; the public sector workers can take to the streets; the phone-ins can fill hours of airtime with tales of pain; and does any of it make any difference? Has one single thing been changed by opposition?
The government seems utterly unyielding – in defence of those whose money would be lost if the banks had defaulted as would have been the case in a truly capitalist economy – and equally unyielding in its cuts in the services to those who have no power, whose wives do not still have €3.5 million after they have gone bankrupt; those who do not drive around in six figure motor cars; those who have never flown in an aeroplane, let alone a helicopter; those who could not afford the admission price to a racetrack and have never seen the inside of a hospitality tent; those who will never set foot on a golf course, or in a restaurant, or on the soil of a foreign country.
Coming from a meeting at a school where two teachers will have 51 children aged 4-12 following the Department of Education’s removal of a teaching post, there was time to ponder powerlessness. Ordinary people can do nothing to defend themselves.
On the road ahead, a white van drew nearly to a stop on a bend. The driver seemed lost. He moved off again, then stopped then pulled up at a junction. Turning right, he began to waver along the main road, straddling the double white lines that ran down the centre. Swaying back to the left, he slowed to a crawl at the approach of oncoming traffic. The driver had clearly had too much to drink. Reaching the edge of the city, he suddenly accelerated before stopping suddenly at a roundabout and accelerating hard to move off down a side street, where he disappeared.
The man was a danger to himself – and to everyone else, but there was no sign of any Garda patrol. Where is the overwhelming authority of government in protecting the people the man is likely, sooner or later, to kill? Cowed by the power of the breweries?
Why is there no-one to defend the little people? What happened to republican principles?