Friday 15 November 2019

Editorial: 'A dark week must make us question society's direction'

'He was a colossus in our living rooms, giving the country a break from the tedium of daily life, thrilling and surprising us and making us laugh or cry.' Photo: Mark Condren
'He was a colossus in our living rooms, giving the country a break from the tedium of daily life, thrilling and surprising us and making us laugh or cry.' Photo: Mark Condren
Editorial

Editorial

Gay Byrne vacating his seat as narrator of our times forced us to take a moment to ponder on the way we were, and what we have become. But other darker events this week might also have stopped us in our tracks and left us deeply uncomfortable.

The sentencing of Ana Kriegel's killers brought demons to the surface which we would do well to stare straight in the face.

A harrowing account by Kevin Lunney of his savage beating also shattered any fragile sense we have of a shared decency.

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But if it's lost, how do we get it back?

For even if we only paid lip-service to them, Gay Byrne's Ireland came with a set of values. The pulpit has been thrown into the skip and many of the old certainties hollowed out. True, we possibly bent the knee too readily to the Church, Mammon, and self-serving politics. We also invested too much confidence in what we now regard as dead institutions.

But were we to have a national conversation on the core values we actually hold today, we would first have to identify them. Both baby and bathwater seem to have disappeared.

Other generations have been criticised for their unquestioning obedience, but might we be indicted for an unquestioning acceptance? A tolerance for what is cruel, harmful and hurtful? If you were seeking for a domain of deeper awareness as to what it is to be Irish today or as to what we cherish most: where might that search begin?

Any society where children can murder children without motive, or a man can be tortured for hours, must ask have we become too well adjusted to the unacceptable?

The Irish Independent is part of this conversation, and has a role in the discourse.

The law of the land must be respected and those who don't must be made fear it.

Have we lost the old spirit of the meitheal, where people banded together to help a neighbour, in the vacuous pursuit of a like by Facebook 'friends'?

Are we offering a solid or shallow heritage to our children or our children's children?

If we have moral foundations today, they are on shakiest ground when it comes to looking after the young, and their interests.

For the first time, we have produced a generation which can not afford to rent or own a home. True, anything that just costs money is cheap, as Steinbeck wrote. But, a right to secure work, decent housing, proper health and education services, ought not be beyond us if we aspire to be a society in all but name.

Such services best reflect values and need to be part of the national conversation.

Or has too much of what we care about been swallowed up by what Aesop calls "the great chewing complacency"?

The bailout and the crash were brutal immersion therapies in understanding that not everything can be counted; and everything that can, doesn't always count.

So yes, we need to talk about Ireland.

Irish Independent

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