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Cult of the psychopath

Sir -- Many decades ago, eons before the arrival of political correctness, I worked with an eminent psychiatrist who used to routinely refer to the Irish as "a nation of psychopaths".

I recalled this after reading Eoghan Harris's reference to Fine Gael cultivating "the cult of Michael Collins" (Sunday Independent, May 1, 2011). For after all if one is convinced, as I am and indeed many others, that Collins ticks all the boxes to qualify as a psychopath, the rationale could plausibly pass as an attempt to construct a kind of national identity or consciousness, in short, the cult of the psychopath.

On a more serious note however, one has to ask oneself why one's view of the matter almost amounts to the polar opposite of that of the regime in power. On reflection, it clearly boils down to a conflict of interests. As Mr Harris, with forensic precision, points out, "the national tradition still constitutes a (here quoting Dragoslav Dedovic) 'code for the distribution of posts and resources'".

I seem to recall that Tim Pat Coogan referred somewhere to Collins as "The man who made Ireland". Regardless of the verifiability of the latter, it was an Ireland which, when viewed through the eyes of an economic exile of some 58 years, consisted of, in the words of historian Professor JJ Lee, "a political and professional elite, spiritual collaborators in the mass eviction process that drove more than half a million out between 1945 and 1960". Four out of every five children born in the Thirties were driven out, and in 1961 the population was driven down to 2.8 million. Another dirty little secret lies in the exodus of over 60,000 Protestants during the terror campaign masterminded by Collins between 1920 and 1922.

Leaving aside Collins's career as a terrorist and the horrific legacy of violence which he bequeathed, the would-be cultural nationalists might usefully reflect on the following by historian Professor Tom Garvin, "... the contents of the Public Record Office, containing the social, political and cultural history of Ireland, lovingly accumulated by scholars, were distributed in tiny fragments all over the city. The enormous cultural loss to the Irish nation perpetrated by these putative patriots but actual vandals has been irreversible".

They might also ponder the loss of the gorgeous houses and buildings wilfully and mindlessly destroyed, and at a time when Britain was within a matter of a few years of the universal franchise.

George Santayana's assertion, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," seems prima facie to be good sense. However, it seems that those whose vested interests are bound up with the past are doomed irrevocably to repeat it. With a regime staffed by third raters that takes its mandate from the gnomes of Europe and "the grim ghosts of our grandfathers" (to quote Mr Harris), the prospects for Ireland would seem to be as auspicious as those of a headless chicken.

William Barrett,

Surrey, UK

Sunday Independent