Monday 20 November 2017

A proclamation for our people and their needs

The ideals of 1916 remain relevant today, so let's make the idea of equality a reality, wrote Anthony Cronin in this article, first published last Easter

Author and poet Anthony Cronin at home in Ranelagh.
Photo: Tony Gavin 27/11/14
Author and poet Anthony Cronin at home in Ranelagh. Photo: Tony Gavin 27/11/14

Anthony Cronin

One hundred years ago tomorrow, Ireland successfully asserted its claim to nationhood. With the convening of the new Dail, it will bend itself again to the tasks of nationhood and the mutual obligations and demands which citizenship of any nation involves.

The Proclamation of 1916 was written mostly by James Connolly who, after the socialist fashion of the day, was much concerned with stating in it the importance of canals and waterways as part of the means of production, distribution and exchange. After such revision, the Proclamation was still a work in progress when death put an end to all discussion and gave a certain sanctity to the document that was read out on the day. As it stands, the Proclamation has no constitutional or canonical status. To everyone his or her own proclamation. Here, with due deference, are a few of the nuts and bolts of mine.

As a substitute for equality, our politicians speak much about equality of opportunity. Garret FitzGerald was particularly fond of doing so.

But there can be no equality of opportunity without equality of education. In our world, the qualification and the degree are the passport to almost everything.

Therefore, all education, primary, secondary and tertiary, will be free to all.

And everything required to pursue it, from books to breakfast, should be free as well.

Healthcare and health necessities, including GP and hospital fees, will be free to all at the point of delivery.

Homelessness is a major cause of ill-health as well as much else. Time was when the homeless were regarded as responsible for their predicament and could be punished for it. Under Henry VIII, thousands of people were hanged in England for the crime of vagrancy.

The encouraging thing is that we have tackled housing shortages with such efficacy in the past. In the eight years following the Housing Act of 1932, which provided generous state subventions for house-building schemes developed by local authorities, the Government built an average of over 16,000 houses a year. These schemes gave not only shelter to many but employment as well on a Rooseveltian scale. With - or despite - all our planning and other regulations, we should be able to do at least the same.

Even as the signatories to the Proclamation were writing it, even as they fought, re-thinking about empires and their ownership and profitability was already going on. Norman Angell and others were showing that empire was not actually a very profitable business; and to say that a particular area of the Earth's surface belonged to a distant empire had little meaning if you used the word 'belong' in its everyday sense.

This cast doubt on the implication that all the wealth of Ireland would revert to its original ownership when it ceased to be part of the British empire. If the ownership rights of the empire could have been revoked, it is difficult to see how 'ownership' would have become vested in 'the Irish people' as a whole.

As to the unfettered control of Irish destiny which was to flourish in the new state, the reality is that between membership of alliances such as the EU, no modern state has unfettered control of its own destiny.

However, these relationships are not necessarily permanent. More inextricable limitations derive from debt levels which morally and practically deprive many modern states of the control of their own destinies in any real sense. We were unjustly treated in our recent dealings with our creditors. (But perhaps unjust dealing is in the nature of debt and everything pertaining to it.) Ireland therefore will ceaselessly promote the cancelling of all debts, in particular its own.

Fears about the adverse effects that such a cancellation would have on the world economy have been demonstrated to be baseless. In the US, the virtual cancelling of its debt by increasing the money supply has not had such adverse effects.

The Proclamation of 1916 speaks of Ireland's exaltation among the nations. This is primarily achieved through art, not through sporting contests of one kind or another.

If it were not for Yeats and Joyce and a few others, Ireland could not have partaken of any 'exaltation' among the nations. State policy will ensure its continuance in so far as it is possible for state policy to do.

No doubt the cost of much of what is suggested in this proclamation would be high. But the benefits, the dignity of all, and the absence of hypocrisy would be priceless.

Sunday Independent

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