Are we ready to offer blood, toil, tears and sweat in the national interest?
A new government should, like Churchill, lead from the front by hiding the begging bowl and cutting out waste, writes Ronan Fanning
'AND I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.' And he replied, 'Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God'."
The quotation comes from the Christmas broadcast of King George VI in 1939 as the British people stood at the gate of 1940, the most perilous year in their history. Seventy years later, those words may seem quaint and irrelevant in a secularised Ireland where the church of the majority has fallen into such disrepute, but they do capture an essential characteristic of the national mood. For an apprehensive and bewildered people, standing at the gate of 2011, want nothing so much as some sense of safety as they peer hesitantly into the unknown.
What they crave, in particular, is the national leadership that has been so signally and shamefully lacking in the present Government. And here it is worth reminding ourselves of another analogy from 1940: Winston Churchill's famous phrase when he then became prime minister and told the British people that he had "nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat". The impending general election makes it likely that, instead of toil, tears and sweat, we will instead be offered the traditional mish-mash of soft words and promises.