Saturday 20 January 2018

We can finally afford to hope

Taoiseach, Enda Kenny , the Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton
Taoiseach, Enda Kenny , the Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton

It is said the best legacy any politician can aspire towards is that the country they leave when ceding power is somewhat better than the one they took over.

One of the more hopeful features of Irish political life is that this administration has the potential to be the first government since the 1997 Ahern administration to secure that goal. Curmudgeons might say it would be hard not to meet such a modest objective, given the landscape the Coalition inherited. But the very nature of that legacy means success of any sort is magnified, for there was certainly something of the languishing despair of Fifties Ireland surrounding the State that Mr Kenny took over.

As with 1959 where, as the historian Diarmuid Ferriter noted, "the language of malaise" was endemic in public discourse, Ireland in 2011 was a failed state which literally as well as figuratively was not working. Such was the extent of the malaise, Ireland appeared to have not moved on a jot from the scenario where Ken Whitaker provocatively asked, "Has Ireland a future?'', and warned that the people were "falling into a mood of despondency'' over the scenario where after a mere 35 years of native government the economic independence achieved with such sacrifice appeared to be withering away. That was not the only similarity, for Ireland in 2011, as in 1959, was, courtesy of our overweening arrogance, isolated within Europe and indeed the world.

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