End of the age of adolescence
Published 17/06/2012 | 05:00
Truth may be bitter but it is time we admitted that Ireland's defining national characteristic is adolescence. The most public manifestation of this is provided by our regular outbursts of hysteria and irrational elation, but the far greater national flaw is that, like all adolescents, we want to be independent but are too irresponsible to sustain independent living.
During our colonial era, we could claim Ireland was being stifled by malign outside forces; while, in the wake of joining the EU, we feather-bedded ourselves from the full responsibilities of independence with structural funds and cheap ECB credit. But now that there is no British patriarch to blame or no EU fairy godmother to bail us out from the consequences of our taste for acts of irresponsible selfishness, it is clear Ireland's age of adolescence is over.
Ireland instead, though sadly neither by choice nor the desire to engage in some courageous stance, now stands alone. Our 90-year experiment in self-delusion died after Enda's phone call to Angela, where the Taoiseach put out a self-satisfied, supplicating hand and received the sharp response that Ireland's historic role in future should be to behave in a similar fashion to other mature democracies. One might think that is surely not too great a request . . . even for this administration. However, as a frightened EU core grows chillier in its attitude to dysfunctional peripheral states such as us, and Europe's choice narrows down to the stark one of integration or disintegration, the erratic performance of Mr Kenny offers the clearest indication of how this administration is visibly feeling the weight of operating in the most dangerous political landscape since a previous 'iron curtain' fell across the continent.
In truth, the unhappiness of the perennial opposition political adolescents of FG and Labour matters little. Tough as it may be, it is time for a Government, whose commitment to radical reform has all of the weight of feather, to leave the nest and find a way to live independently. The capricious Irish may once have been entertaining but the adults are too busy now to have the patience for a crying child constantly tugging at the knee of their trousers. In such a new dispensation, one might think that one of the collateral benefits to ending the politics of adolescence would include the excision of creatures such as the tax-dodging builder Michael Wallace from the Dail. We, however, would like to suggest it might be better to retain that comical blusterer, if for no other reasons than the hope that this idiot, elected by idiots, might evolve into a living warning to the electorate that when you vote stupid, you get stupid.
Heart, nerve, sinew
During the Tiger era, Ireland had the luxury of only celebrating success. However, particularly in our current circumstances, we should respect the efforts of the Irish squad. The least talented but perhaps bravest soccer team may have secured our worst result in a major championship, but there is something of Kipling's If surrounding a group of artisans who even in the teeth of disaster continued to force "heart and nerve and sinew'' and still "hold on when there is nothing in you''. Trapattoni's rather dishevelled army may, like Kipling's hero, have had to watch "the things you gave your life to broken" but their lessons in courage and perseverance were strangely appropriate ones for the state we are now in.