News Letters

Thursday 27 October 2016

Letters: Without a vision for the future we remain locked in the past

Published 24/06/2014 | 02:30

W B Yeats'
W B Yeats'

Ireland's history is a burden that cannot be shed, it weighs heavily on every generation. For far too long it has been seen as a never-ending fight for our freedom from British rule – a struggle that was governed by the heart more often than by the head, sometimes justifying actions of unspeakable depravity.

  • Go To

Sigmund Freud reminds us of the blood and cruelty that lie at the bottom of all we uncritically see as good.

In Ireland, we have generated a myth of origin that has all the marks of religious belief, emphasising the ritual significance of laying down one's life for one's country and the glorification of war, inhibiting a more critical grasp of our past.

The 1916 Rising was, by any standards, an abysmal failure driven by the religious notions of martyrdom and blood sacrifice, echoes of which we see in today's fundamentalist Islam.

What the Easter Rising and the Civil War did for the country was not to release the free spirit of the Irish but to imprison us in a world created by a dynastic system of politics, allied to an outmoded form of nationalism, working to the advantage of the few.

The regular commemoration of the events of 1916 continues to confront us with all the ambiguities that lay in the wake of those days.

Yeats' terrible beauty was not just born but continues to be nourished and reared in a haze of banal triumphalism, drowning out the anguished cry of the poor and the marginalised.

We are living in challenging times where traditional certainties are ebbing away.

However, if we have no clear vision for the future we become locked in the past, living in it rather than learning from it.

There is a crying need for a genuine national debate about where Ireland is heading.

Would that such a debate would replace the exchange of empty political slogans and promises so that politics does not continue to degenerate into the art of the improbable.





Spain has recently crowned its new King, Felipe VI. The Kingdom of Spain is one of Ireland's oldest allies, possibly our oldest. Spain's relationship with Ireland stretches back, at least, to the time of the Elizabethan oppression when many Catholic chieftains and lords were exiled from Ireland to Spain and to other European countries.

Today there are still shipwrecks from the famous Spanish Armada, which many Irish in the year 1588 hoped would liberate Ireland from the oppression of the Protestant English crown of the time, lying off the west coast of Ireland.

Irish participants fought on both sides of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. Given Ireland's cultural and historic links with Spain, I would like to see the Government extend an invitation to the new king and queen to come to Ireland on a state visit.





Very little has been written on the Irish Famine until relatively recent times. One of the reasons for this may well have been the impact of the Famine on the Irish psyche. There is a similarity with the Jewish Holocaust of the 1940s where at least a generation was to pass before Jewish artists and scholars got to work.

The sheer horror of the experience had made the task of confrontation extremely difficult. So it must have been with the Irish Famine. It is hard to conceive, but is nonetheless true, that in many parts of the country people of all ages witnessed the dead bodies of whole families on roadsides or in abandoned hovels.

This may have some relevance for the taboo surrounding children born out of wedlock, which emerged with a vengeance in post-Famine Ireland and caused such pain and distress to so many young women and their offspring. In investigating the origins of this taboo, many lines of inquiry need to be followed. I would hope that the role of the Famine is not ignored.

To what extent did the taboo of bringing a child into the world out of wedlock, without clear provision for its future, derive from the image rooted in the Irish psyche of the dead Famine infants and children?





Wasn't the hurling game on Sunday a dinger?

There they were, the cats; purring! All systems running like a Swiss watch. Galway beaten in almost every position on the field. Game over, Henry on – "bye bye Galway, next please!"

Then we saw what the power of one person can do. Namely Joe Canning. He caught the game by the scruff of the neck and inspired those around him to say, "No, we will not capitulate!"

The power of one who says 'No' is a very powerful force indeed, it would seem.

"Yes we can!" "No you won't!" And the heat goes on!





It is a little bizarre to base the case, at least in part, for inviting a British royal to 1916 commemorative ceremonies on the premise that the Home Rule Bill signed by George V in September 1914 was "more or less what we got in the Treaty of 1921" (Noel Flannery, June 21), thereby implying that both the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence were completely unnecessary.

There is a world of difference between Home Rule, now called devolution, and independence.

Britain was quite happy to grant Home Rule to both Northern and Southern Ireland in the Government of Ireland Act 1920, but made every effort militarily to break the campaign for independence, though based outside North-East Ulster on an overwhelming electoral mandate.

When historical arguments are adduced to support political positions, it is important that they do not gloss over vital differences, or belittle real achievements.





The United States tax authorities have recently reported that foreign corporations, incorporated in Ireland but controlled by 666 American corporations, reported earnings and profits, before tax, of $87.12bn for 2010 and that tax on these earnings amounted to $2.9bn (3.3pc). The corresponding earnings of this cohort for 2004 were €24.78bn on which the tax liability was €1.6bn (6.4pc). The scale of these earnings was equivalent to 12pc of our GDP in 2004 and 42pc of our GDP in 2010.

By way of comparison, the earnings and profits in 2010 of over 3,200 American-controlled foreign corporations incorporated in France and Germany was $31.4bn, which incurred a tax liability of $5.1bn (16.2pc).

The Irish corporation tax system is statute-based and its characteristics of transparency and simplicity are promoted across the world as being advantageous. But could the quality of transparency be substantially enhanced if all taxpayers' returns were disclosed in the public domain by the Irish authorities?

Financial transparency is a vital component of a progressive and accountable democracy. The communication of tax payment information would strengthen the relationship between a company and the stakeholders who are the source of its prosperity and growth.



Irish Independent

Read More

Promoted articles

Don't Miss

Editor's Choice