Sunday 22 January 2017

Now we must get back to future

Published 19/11/2010 | 05:00

BOTH the Government and the opposition have made much about the alleged loss of sovereignty following the arrival of the IMF in Dublin this week. This is not a good moment in the State's short life but the Irish people's long history has witnessed many, much darker moments and come through them strengthened by struggle.

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Sovereignty is not a measure of a country's or an individual's wealth; it is ultimately a state of mind. Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners may have been jailed for decades, stripped of their belongings and humiliated by their captors, but they never surrendered in their prison cells and never lost their sovereignty. When Daniel O'Connell or Charles Stewart Parnell were jailed their strength and influence grew and Ireland edged closer to freedom. Our sovereignty is about what laws we chose to enact, what language we chose to speak, who we chose to lead us, how we chose to look after our people and manage our resources. It has a hard edge, too; a strong army, a hard currency but small countries such as Ireland have never enjoyed this kind of sovereignty and never will. This is why it is meaningless to define our sovereignty by wealth alone.

We sometimes lost track of that fact during the Celtic Tiger when we too often knew the cost of everything and the value of nothing. We have become used to thinking of Ireland as a wealthy country that has much to teach our European neighbours and the rest of the world. It has been pleasant to have delegations from every corner of the globe trooping over here to find out how we did it. As it was pleasant earlier to believe in President Kennedy's words that "Ireland's hour had come" but only a fool believes the world can, or should, stay still.

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