Kevin Myers: Irrationality has always been at the very heart of Irish life
Published 03/08/2010 | 05:00
THE Defence Forces recently organised a parachute jump to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Army's deployment to the Congo. Guests were invited to watch the drop from inside an aircraft hangar.
Yes, from underneath a metal roof, so that we saw nothing. We couldn't see the men leave the plane -- I presume it was a plane, but for all I know, they could just as well have jumped off the roof. We didn't see them free-falling or doing any fancy mid-air manoeuvres or opening their parachutes or formatting downwards. In fact, the first we saw of them was through the open doors, for the final few feet, as they landed.
I'm sorry but frankly not even North Korea would organise an invisible parachute jump for invited guests. It was if it had all been laid on to conform with some ghastly stereotype of irrationality that we daily imbibe from our newspaper headlines.
So we read that the Financial Regulator authorised the Quinn Group to borrow money from Anglo Irish Bank in order to buy Anglo Irish shares -- which is rather like the Vatican running an abortion clinic.
Then we hear that dear old Anglo Irish Bank, which now has debts of ten zillion, has taken over Arnotts, which has debts of three zillion. Needless to say, although you and I effectively own them all -- Quinn, Anglo Irish, Arnotts -- we are powerless to stop this madness.
Then we read that David Doyle -- one of the mandarins at Finance whose hands were on the tiller as the ship of State ploughed on to the rocks -- has taken early retirement with a tax-free golden handshake of €350,000 and a specially topped-up pension that will pay him six times the average national wage -- for life.
The news that a five-year-old boy has been given €7,500 for defamation after being falsely accused of stealing a bag of crisps serves as confirmation that this is truly Gagaland.
But was it not always so? A deep, recidivist irrationality seems to have been a defining feature of Irish life from the outset. How else can one describe a State that began to celebrate its freedom in the 1920s by limiting freedom in every direction?
No other democracy in European history has ever chosen to use its post-imperial independence to curtail the liberties of its citizens; but that is precisely what Ireland did. The various censorship acts of the 1920s made it a criminal obscenity for any publication even to mention contraception, divorce, menstruation or abortion.
The State freely handed over the custody of orphans to the Catholic Church and then turned its back on abuses there, though government inspectors in the 1930s repeatedly reported what was going on. Decades later, the State commissioned various inquiries into abuse by the church, yet studiously ignored the complicity of the State in all such abuse.
Meanwhile, Irish historians obligingly complied with the fantasies created by the political classes. This would have been a major feat in a totalitarian state, but for it to have been achieved in a democratic state is truly astounding.
But thus it was. Myth descended over almost every major event, so that even serious history books became intoxicated with falsehood. The Rising was a casebook study, in which history was inverted and the executions of the leaders became the initial injustice, rather than the first murders of civilians and police officers by insurgents on Easter Monday.
When someone first named the unarmed policemen slain on Easter Monday some 16 years ago, it caused consternation, disbelief and anger.
BUT such emotions are inevitable whenever the truth -- only occasionally -- raises its head like a kraken in a sea of fantasy. For decades, the Irish State freely chose to forget that hundreds of thousands of Irishmen had served in British colours in the Great War.
But the same someone who had long before begun the press campaign to get their memory revived was totally ignored two years ago when -- with the subject now fashionable -- three of the intellectual prime architects of that amnesia (RTE, Trinity College Dublin and The Royal Irish Academy) then chose to mount a massive commemoration of Ireland and the Great War.
Similarly, until the account in 1998 by the Canadian historian, the late Peter Hart, (of whom more anon) no history book of the Civil War ever mentioned the butchery of Protestants in the Bandon Valley in 1922 or the attacks on Protestants that were widespread over southern Ireland from 1919 onwards. But 10 years before Hart, the same aforementioned someone had described these atrocities and named the victims. The reward was -- predictably -- vilification.
Moreover, no formal history of this time has yet told of the arrest in September 1922 by Charlie Dalton, a uniformed officer in the Free State Army and former member of Michael Collins's Squad, of three unarmed teenage boys he'd caught pasting up anti-treaty posters in Drumcondra.
He took the lads to the Red Cow crossroads and, using his army revolver, shot them dead.
Within a decade, Dalton had become a director of the Irish Hospital Sweeps, the biggest state-sponsored con-trick in Irish history and effectively a template for all our modern corruption.
This, too, with all its profound legal and moral ramifications, has been totally ignored by Irish historians.
You see those headlines that shock you every day? They're not news -- they are merely the latest symptoms of a chronic and pathological irrationality as old as the State itself.