Many of us a certain age remember exactly where they were when they heard John F Kennedy was shot, shortly after he visited us in 1963.

In truth, we were perhaps too easily impressed by a man who was in fact a mediocre US President, and a probable sex maniac to boot, but who had a winning smile and a nice haircut and made us feel better about ourselves.

We have always been too easily impressed or trusting of those who with spin and promises, tell us they know best, and despite being chancers, seem like "really good guys" deep down with our best interests at heart.

This partly explains why we're in the mess we are in now.

Many of us will remember Thursday November 18, 2010, not just as the day the country was assassinated by its so-called leaders, but as hopefully when we finally grew up as a people and stopped assuming that our ruling elite always knows what's best for us.

It was the day when our great and good were finally found out. Pretty much everything they say or do will now be tainted by our cynicism. All has changed, changed utterly.

Perhaps we should be grateful that we actually can be bailed out.

As a nation, we love to be loved and looked after. It's part of our previously dormant national inferiority complex that has now revisited us like an irritating friend.

Let's for a moment move from those "patriots" who are now willing to let their country die for them to those who did actually die for their country.

Much is now being spoken about the ideals of the 1916 Rising being betrayed.  And let's not forget, thousands of Irish people also fought in the Great War believing it would win us self-determination.

Some of the "is this what they fought for?" debate has at times appeared like reaching for the nearest historical cllche.

Yet it cannot be denied that, if for a minute you park the admittedly compelling "legacy of terrorism" argument, we could do with some of the idealism of that era today.

The sometimes trendily-derided 1916 Proclamation contained, as did its US counterpart, some self-evident truths and aspirations which throw into depressing focus much of what occurred after our glorious revolution. And indeed after the American one.

The 1916 Proclamation states: "the Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally."

So, how did our political, economic, professional and social elites perform since then?

A few highlights here. The fainthearted can look away but you probably know the score already - institutional child abuse; clerical sex abuse; family planning restrictions leading to misery and poverty; denial of divorce; denial of women's rights ('criminal conversation anyone?); ridiculous censorship of practically everything; an inequitable and sometimes unsafe health service; economic stagnation most of the time.

The list may not be endless, but it's pretty long. And of course you can include our current banking and financial disaster.

Our dismal report card is peppered with a consistent line of authoritarian arrogance from our ruling classes.

But who were we to argue? They knew what was best for us.

Here's a particularly sick-making vignette. The Government relatively recently doing a deal with Catholic religious orders limiting the amount of compensation they would have to pay out to child abuse victims.

If that did not give us some hint of the moral bankuptcy of our power elite, then what would it have taken to really alert us?

Well, perhaps this - we are now experiencing the high finance equivalent of the bailiffs coming in and warning that the furniture and our future, are about to be repossessed. Shortly, our visitors will be accompanied by the loan-shark with his generous terms. Our national and international humiliation is complete.

Debates about whether or not we are losing our sovereignty may well be moot at this point. In truth we gave up much of this as our links to the EU and its institutions strengthened during the boom times. This admittedly gave us considerable economic and social improvements over the years.

When the Celtic party was rocking and waking the neighbours, we did not worry too much about the level of independence we enjoyed as a State and an economy. Prosperity gave birth to an illusion of freedom. Times were good and the chief cheerleaders at the party were the Government and a self-satisfied golden circle crew who frequented the Galway Races "tint."

We may have even suspected, but did little about, the fact that were were being lied and dissembled to as we enjoyed ourselves and for a time shed our national inferiority complex.

We'd all like to think we saw it coming but in truth few of us wanted to know. We may have had occasional twinges of doubt five or six years ago when, driving down a country road through somewhere adjacent to the middle of nowhere, we wondered who exactly all these new housing estates and apartment blocks were actually for.

And we may occasionally have protested, but pretty weakly, when our bank increased out credit card limits unasked yet again or remortgaged us again no problem.

We are now learning the limits of how much self-determination a small peripheral EU state really enjoys when things go catastrophically wrong.

Our economic depression (and let's stop calling it a recession) is having a marked effect on people's mental health. That the depression is causing depression there can be no doubt.

Whatever the real value or practicality of political and economic sovereignty in the modern global age, there is no doubt that what has happened to Ireland had dealt a severe blow to our psychological means of self-determination as individuals and as a community.

We can only hope that a few years down the road, those who lead us will help us recover.

Despite our apparent loss of much of our sovereignty, one thing we still can do for ourselves is democratically (careful now) put in a new Government.

We will shortly and thankfully, see the current Government depart from office.

We will then be spared the increasingly galling spectacle of Mary Harney and others lecturing us about our fiscal and moral responsibilities as Ozymandias-like, all they have presided over crumbles around them.

It was bad enough her telling us she has no sense of shame for what has happened to the country she and her colleagues have run for the past 13 years.

Mary Harney's recent indulgence in Jesuitical distinctions about whether the State really has a legal obligation to look after its elderly, while at the same time lambasting the Ombudsman for stating that it undoubtedly did, was also particularly inappropriate in these dark days.

And by the way, another highlight here, this is the Government whose health authorities at one stage illegally took money from the pockets of institutionalised and usually poverty-stricken older people in public nursing homes.

This was Government which even in the good times, despite all the talk about reform, denied equitable access to health and social care for the poor and the vulnerable, and left pretty much untouched a grossly inefficient healthcare delivery system.

This Government leaves a sorry record behind in many areas, and not just in the economic sphere.

And people, especially younger people, are cynical about politicians. Such ingratitude.

It is to be hoped that whoever is given the task of cleaning up the mess will lay some foundations for a modest prosperity in four or five years time that does not again sell our birthright. Most of all, that they stop spinning and for once, use responsibly the power we entrust to them.

See also: 'Romantic Ireland's dead and gone'

 

 

 

 

 


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