Friday 23 February 2018

Let's not return to the dead Ireland of my youth

Anthony Cronin fears that if Ireland endures crippling repayments, starved growth and emigration for too long, the days of 'terrible boredom' will come again

THE Ireland in which I was brought up was a dull, narrow, restrictive place. The concept of the entrepreneur was unknown. Those who had money were almost all a tight-fisted lot. They put their profits in banks, which exported them to England, which in turn exported them to places like Uruguay at exorbitant interest rates to build railways. To use a phrase of the time, there wasn't 'a shillin' stirring'.

Perhaps for that reason, for such things do not thrive in a more active, ebullient economic environment, pietism and hypocrisy were the dominant notes struck by officialdom, lay and clerical. As Frank O'Connor said in a contribution to this newspaper, so far from a terrible beauty having been born, a terrible boredom reigned. In the midst of desolation, politicians mouthed patriotic slogans. Everywhere there was talk of our souls, but the activities by which the spirit really lives -- art, literature, and social camaraderie of all kinds -- were either starved for sustenance, actively censored or simply forbidden.

I do not want those days to come again. But I know that if the appalling vista of crippling repayments, starved growth, and emigration of the brightest and best continues for too long they will come again. Or if not them, another version of despair which will be even worse, the jackboot of the infallible leader.

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