Fighting talk: Ireland lacks strong leadership, Collins memorial is told
Ireland will have to display confidence and strength in the face of Brexit to ensure future growth and prosperity, economist Jim Power told the annual Michael Collins commemoration at Béal na Bláth in west Cork.
Mr Power said Ireland is currently facing into the most significant September since 1922 and Brexit is the most "fundamental challenge" the State has faced in generations.
He said we are required to be mature in order to prove to the world that being part of an economic and political union with the UK "is not what defines us".
The first economist to ever give the oration told the crowd of in excess of 300 people that in recent times he has questioned himself "about the dangers inherent in the Irish Government's unfaltering adherence to the backstop".
"Amid much soul searching, I reach the conclusion that there is no other choice based on where all the parties now find themselves," he said. "The Government must stand its ground and hopefully the EU will continue to back us all the way."
Mr Power said Ireland cannot become a victim of an ideological perversion among the ruling classes in the UK that has pertained for generations.
"In 1930, Churchill said that 'We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked, but not combined.' This strange relationship with Europe, which clearly goes back a long way, has ended the careers of a succession of Tory leaders."
Mr Power stressed that in any society, strong leadership from people with vision and ambition is essential, while questioning the strength of leading politicians in this country: "While it is easy to be overly critical of our political leaders, because ruling in a democracy is not an easy task, one does get a sense that Ireland still lacks the strong leadership and confidence that a modern and dynamic economy and society should possess."
He said he often gets the sense that there is an unwillingness in Ireland to take strong and forceful decisions that a modern, functioning country should take. These included the failures for so many years to tackle the wrongdoings of the Church, to de-regulate markets and adequately address climate change.
"[There is also] the failure to introduce water charges, despite all logic suggesting this was the right thing to do; the failure to build enough houses to house our growing population; and the failure to make the health service function properly.
"We need to ask ourselves the question, why we are unable to provide sufficient housing and health services for a relatively small population of 4.8 million people? Is it a lack of confidence? Is it a lack of vision? Is it a lack of leadership? Is it a symptom of a public sector structure that does not work effectively? I believe it is a combination," he said.
The Co Waterford native said that 2011 to 2013 stood out as a period when there was considerable economic reform - when the Troika was effectively running the country.
"I would like to see our elected politicians taking stronger and braver leadership roles and doing what needs to be done, rather than abdicating responsibility to others who are not accountable in the democratic system.
"Michael Collins would not have abdicated responsibility for decision making in this manner."
Mr Power said that asking an economist to deliver an oration at such an intensely political event was "arguably unusual" - but economics and finance had featured strongly in Collins's life.
In his role as minister for finance in the provisional government, Collins proved himself to have original thinking when it came to economic development, Mr Power told the crowd.
The commemoration at Béal na Bláth is held every August to mark the anniversary of the killing of Collins during the Irish Civil War in 1922.