International Super-Supplement: Good ol’ Irish Optimism (that’s not necessarily fuelled by Guinness)

It’s a simultaneously intriguing, yet horrific situation in the Irish Republic at present.

(Centre: Irish Taoiseach [Prime Minister] Brian Cowen)

Intriguing as the UK has been in this situation before- evidently not precisely the same due to the intimate involvement of the Eurozone in this scenario. The core premise was the same though; Britain was the sick man of Europe throughout the 60s and 70s, the government was deeply unpopular, and international assistance was inevitably required (solely from the IMF in this case). While the circumstances are very similar in Ireland currently however, events and reactions are playing out very differently.

Horrific not just because Ireland stands on the brink of complete economic collapse, but rather because the whole of Europe does- a breakdown of the Euro and its economic zone, as a result of a predicted ‘domino effect’, would spell disaster for the livelihoods of all in the constituent nations (primarily the working classes), and possibly bring the EU itself under pressure- putting at risk a union that has done so much for our country and indeed all of its members in terms of liberty and human rights. What happens in Ireland now will undoubtedly have overarching consequences for Europe (particularly for the UK as a main exporter to the country) and ultimately the world at large should the forecasted knock-on effect occur.

The government, and essentially the people of the Emerald Isle (if the increasingly likely a vote of no confidence is passed) are under a lot of pressure to do ‘what’s right’- a vague phrase used by the Tories of this nation and free market advocates worldwide as a subtle admission that they have no idea what a solution would involve. So, as the luck of the Irish has seemingly run out, as the breweries have run dry, as the leprechaun’s gold stash has become depleted, regardless of how many lame clichés you can come up with to relate to the state of affairs, wouldn’t you have thought the mood would have become desperate and hopeless, the people morose and despondent about their country’s future? Oddly enough, the opposite is true. The attitude in Dublin is reported as being overwhelmingly positive, and this is what’s so intriguing. This is why I think our government, media, and we as the people of the UK have a little something to learn from both the experience and contemporary outlook of the other state that inhabits these islands.

The UK in this position during the 60s and 70s couldn’t have been more different than Ireland now- constant protests and rioting, and rebellions against everything that represented any form of establishment were rife- this culminated in the Winter of Discontent. Despite the prospect of easily being able to see off the Callaghan administration that was blamed for the crisis, the population became so dispirited they literally refused to work. However, despite a few protests in Dublin (which are in no way comparable to the level of unrest potential bankruptcy provoked in this country) the Irish still have faith in a governing body. Not in their government itself, in fact passive discontent is looking to remove the current authority. No, a faith in the EU endures.

Despite everything, as a poll on the Irish Times website (now removed) proved, the majority of Irish citizens still believe the Eurozone is ‘the way forward’ for their country, and, astoundingly, that the common currency is not in ‘danger of disappearing’. It appears that in times of economic peril, the Irish are becoming more globalist, the general population looking to the EU not reluctantly like their government, but readily with a sense of European unity for a bailout, which has quickly been provided. It’s at times like this when you have to wonder, self interests aside, that perhaps the EU is worthy of the mantra of the three musketeers- ‘all for one and one for all’.

In the UK however, this feeling of European or even international unity in grim times is never present- throughout this crisis, the media has constantly blamed other nations for the downturn, and, almost as always, there is a permeating sense of economic isolation amongst the people- especially in regards to the EU, an area where our press is dominated by Eurosceptic pessimists. All of this adds to feelings of resentment and dejection that can often lead to unconstructive unrest. We know what the Winter of Discontent brought on us, after all. This media-assisted national feeling is also reflected in our current government- the belief that rapid and deep cuts to lessen dependence on exterior bodies like the EU are necessary to maintain sovereignty, and retain a meaningless sense of fiscal dignity that conservatives seem to cherish. The Irish government went down that route on the outset of the crisis- and such stringent cuts have put supposed ‘economic sovereignty’ at a bigger risk of being lost than ever.

While the UK is not a part of the Eurozone, we can take a lesson from the Republic of Ireland- not just that extreme cuts accomplish the opposite of their intended effect, but also that it is possible to remain happy in the face of adversity- that merely being malcontent with our government and situation, and feeling hopeless isn’t the only way, but that faith in the exterior body- the EU, and an awareness of socialism on a global or at least pan-European scale can be a light in the dark, that no Mr Cameron, it is not just our island but the whole of our multinational union at large, that is in this together.



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