Sunday 25 February 2018

End of the age of adolescence

Truth may be bitter but it is time we admitted that Ireland's defining national characteristic is adolescence. The most public manifestation of this is provided by our regular outbursts of hysteria and irrational elation, but the far greater national flaw is that, like all adolescents, we want to be independent but are too irresponsible to sustain independent living.

During our colonial era, we could claim Ireland was being stifled by malign outside forces; while, in the wake of joining the EU, we feather-bedded ourselves from the full responsibilities of independence with structural funds and cheap ECB credit. But now that there is no British patriarch to blame or no EU fairy godmother to bail us out from the consequences of our taste for acts of irresponsible selfishness, it is clear Ireland's age of adolescence is over.

Ireland instead, though sadly neither by choice nor the desire to engage in some courageous stance, now stands alone. Our 90-year experiment in self-delusion died after Enda's phone call to Angela, where the Taoiseach put out a self-satisfied, supplicating hand and received the sharp response that Ireland's historic role in future should be to behave in a similar fashion to other mature democracies. One might think that is surely not too great a request . . . even for this administration. However, as a frightened EU core grows chillier in its attitude to dysfunctional peripheral states such as us, and Europe's choice narrows down to the stark one of integration or disintegration, the erratic performance of Mr Kenny offers the clearest indication of how this administration is visibly feeling the weight of operating in the most dangerous political landscape since a previous 'iron curtain' fell across the continent.

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