We must realign and reaffirm our faith in ourselves and nation
As a people we will disagree, but I challenge a single one among us to deny the principle stated at the foundation of our nation: the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and our declared resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally. Almost a century has passed since we made this declaration.
Today there is a poignant sense that we have failed to live up to these noblest of aspirations; that we have lost our way and that we are cut off from each other and from our country.
Most of all, there is an overarching feeling of disempowerment. We feel powerless in the face of the tens of billions of euro of banking losses and the huge national deficit that threatens our very existence. We feel powerless in the face of those unseen international financiers waiting in the shadows to destroy us. We look on in horror at the errant bankers, regulators and politicians who have ruined us – that self-serving group who held themselves up as examples of our country’s success, even as they signed us up to their offer of debt and economic slavery. We placed ourselves in hock to pay for mindless development – zoned to enrich the few and damn the many.
We look upon our leaders on both sides of the house no longer with disdain but with indifference – we don’t trust them, for they have failed and failed again. The current leaders, and those who would offer themselves as alternatives, are now sideshows to the reality of what is happening – a people becoming desperate, turning away from each other and even upon each other. In spite of this, I wish to publicly declare that I love my country. I love it intensely. I do not need to justify this; but I do need to express it.
Today, we, the Irish, need to express ourselves – not as the new rich, which we never were; nor as any stereotype that others or history might seek to foist on us. We need to find our voice, empower ourselves.
This takes courage to stand up to the challenge. Not the challenge of debt or deficit; nor the challenge of economics or employment – for these are secondary things. The challenge we are faced with is far more profound. It is the challenge of nationhood, of self-determination, the call to declare our values and live by them.
So what are our values?
Do we accept the basic right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland? Do we resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation? Do we cherish all of our children equally?
I believe that we all accept these principles and that, at our core, there are our values. But we were led astray by the promise of easy wealth. It is the classic mistake made by humanity since the beginning of time. Now there is a chance to realign and to reaffirm.
Faced with the problems of today, our political leaders look for solutions in the past. But the past has failed. We need a new vision.
To begin with, we must adamantly refuse to believe that the so-called experts have any solutions. They talk in the same old language, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it was they, the experts, who led us into this mess. We believed them and blindly followed them, but now we must think for ourselves.
Now, in 2010, there is a struggle going on between two very different and opposing forces.
On the one hand there is the paralyzing and debilitating force hauling us back to the Eighties and to a time when we knew ourselves to be a second-rate state. The tourists might have come, and we had our history and our songs, but really we felt – and were – inferior.
And how could it have been otherwise? How can a people whose children are forced to emigrate think otherwise?
But there is another force at work. It is that same force which in the middle part of the last century caused a poor and broken people to turn to education, for they knew that this was the key. It is that same force alive in our children who, for whatever reason, do not accept that they are born to be second rate.
But this energy can be put out; it can be numbed; it can succumb to negativity and hopelessness. Then the Irish of the future will be the Irish of the past – deeply ashamed of their origins and their failure.
There is overwhelming evidence to support a claim that we are people of great ability. Nowhere else has produced as many game movers and shakers per size of population. We have produced leaders in every walk of life; we have built nations; and we have produced great art. Much of our influence has come from our diaspora. At home, we have not lived up to our inherent talent. We tend to expect the worst of each other – those in positions of control look upon their charges as feckless, and the ordinary people see the governing and professional classes as self-serving.
The blunt fact is that those responsible for our national collapse are the governing and professional classes. The ordinary majority worked hard to improve life for themselves and their own.
They are now expected to pay the price for the terrible and reckless failure of their leaders.
The failure of this State is a failure of leadership. It is not a failure of the Irish people; it is a failure of a class, the ruling class.
From now on our leadership must come from a different source. We cannot and must not rely on those traditional sources of leadership. They have failed. Today it is our turn, the turn of civic society, to reclaim what is rightly ours.
The principles declared at the birth of our nation were simple. The fundamental truths of human life are simple. The central truth is the inalienable fact that on our own we are nothing, and together we are capable of any greatness.
We must take ownership of our country. We must reassert our belief in ourselves. We must reaffirm our resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation.
This is our time.