Monday 5 December 2016

Betrayal of 1916 ideals? Let's try and be proud of our achievements

Published 24/03/2016 | 02:30

Utopian claims that the ideals of the 1916 Rising have been betrayed in the century since do no stand up when the quality of life for people in Ireland is compared with other countries around the world. Photo: PA
Utopian claims that the ideals of the 1916 Rising have been betrayed in the century since do no stand up when the quality of life for people in Ireland is compared with other countries around the world. Photo: PA

There has been no little looking back of late, inspired by the looming centenary of the 1916 Rising. While I find it hard to be enthusiastic about what will be commemorated over the coming week, there is a lot to be proud of about Irish society and the independent state that emerged in the early 1920s.

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That should be said because it is not said enough. Much of the commentary about the past 100 years has been negative. Plenty of claims have been made of a "betrayal" of the visions and ideals of 1916. A great deal of this is utopian-tinged silliness, as if a small group of men had created a blueprint for a perfect democracy and it did not come into being because others failed to implement their plan. Some of the commentary - of the variety that 'Ireland must be the worst country in the world for… [fill in the blank with whatever you can think of] - is utter nonsense.

But a big-picture evaluation of our 94-year-old state, and the society upon which it is built, is indeed best done by comparison - not with some unachievable perfection, but rigorously with the 200-odd countries that currently exist around the world, and with how they have fared over the past century.

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