Friday 17 November 2017

National psyche is badly scarred

Given that our political elite normally approach psychology with the same unease the inhabitants of Salem reserved for witches, the decision of Social Protection Minister Joan Burton to investigate the psychological consequences of Ireland's mortgage arrears crisis is to be commended. GK Chesterton once famously summarised our mercurial temperament with the observation that "the Great Gaels of Ireland, Are the men that God made mad, for all their wars are merry, And all their songs are sad". It is not too inaccurate a summary, though some might argue that mercurial is too soft a term. The Irish psyche is instead of the bi-polar variety, where brief episodes of mad elation are followed by lengthy Scandinavian dark nights of the soul. Ms Burton, in this regard, is right to be concerned about the psychological consequences of a mortgage arrears crisis that is paralysing the collective national will. Like the sin that dare not speak its name, each Irish town has its silent suicides that are the collateral casualties. And the chill unveiled by the Meath by-election tales of an Irish heart of darkness indicates that the psychic wounds inflicted by the unique collapse of the Celtic Tiger may yet be as lengthy as the psychological consequences of the Civil War.

A sense of national decay is also being accelerated by the apparent willingness of significant elements of the current administration to return to our flaccid Mediterranean ways. Increasingly cosy cartels such as our Social Partners which were such a feature of the ancien regime of Bertie, where Micheal Martin supped ever so modestly at the top table, are creeping back with the sort of resilience associated with a Berlusconi. In this regard, nothing epitomises the absence of change more than the happy fate of those such as Michael Lowry, who has discovered that the tribunal report is a form of secular sanctuary. The alienation in Meath East should act as a warning that citizens are turning their backs on the gnomic parables from Mr Noonan, pietistic apologias from Micheal Martin and cheery greetings from our travelling troubadour of a Taoiseach because they realise it is a collective insult to their intelligence. Where they might go next, we suspect, is anyone's guess.

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