I solicit tears, not because of rugby but because of the conclusions I have been driven to by the research for my next book. The reason for my long absence from bloggerdom will become apparent from Wednesday of this week onwards. My new book, 1916: The Mornings After, is being launched in Easons of O’Connell Street, Dublin.
A subtitle to the work indicates the subject matter: From the Court Martials to the Tribunals. I’ve taken a long and not particularly indulgent look at how Cathleen ní Houlihan fared from 1916 to the present day, my thesis being that one could chart the economic and social problems that the Republic has been through in the last seven years by the extent to which Ireland’s decision takers departed from the idealism of 1916.
Obviously there are some pluses, modern Ireland is a stable functioning democracy which has come through the strains, not merely of austerity and the thirty years of the Troubles, but it is true that the worst wounds are self-inflicted and when one examines the last century through a historical perspective one sees a steady build up in corruption that eventually led to the loss of Ireland’s economic sovereignty and the grim years of austerity.
We are coming out of these now but the guilty men still go free and the contemporary media custom of discussing the crash in purely economic and commercial terms, interlarded with meaningless statistics about debt ratios to GDP and so on, overlook the inconvenient truths of the wreckage caused by the unholy alliance between bankers, developers, politicians and the elites in accountancy, law and stockbroking.
The prime inconvenient truth never discussed in relation to the crisis is the increase in suicides. More people died by suicide during the seven years of austerity than were killed in the thirty years of the troubles. The ravages of enforced emigration, unemployment and homelessness can be seen at every hand. Nevertheless the Irish legal system is still not geared to deal with white collar crime and the decision takers have found ways of further frustrating the public by methods such as denaturing the Freedom of Information Act by the simple but effective means of not taking notes at important meetings and as a general rule avoiding writing down anything of any consequence wherever and whenever they can.
The banking crisis did not spring upon Cathleen ní Houlihan like Prometheus fully armed. There were several scandals in AIB before Anglo was much talked of. No heads rolled for these and gradually the entire Irish banking system was allowed to get as irresponsible as it was unregulated. We ended up being told by the Germans how to regulate our affairs – that is we had to account for the cheap money which the German state banks lent us so irresponsibly.
And it’s not only the banks who betrayed us. Christ joined hands with Caesar in literally raping the innocent. The saga of clerical child abuse which has done so much to undermine centuries of Irish Catholicism and the fidelity of a people to their faith. The story of episodes which occured between the Court Martials and the Tribunals, like the Stardust fire, is one that arouses anger, cynicism and a lack of trust in both politics and pontiffs.
My first book was called Ireland Since the Rising and still stands as the first serious attempt to chronicle the fifty years that elapsed between 1916 and 1966. In those days the academic historians shied away from attempting to talk about what happened because of the Civil War. They haven’t got a whole lot better in the intervening fifty years, but even I could not have foreseen how much worse things would become between the fiftieth and the hundredth anniversaries of the Rising. For better or for worse the reasons I say this are to be published in book form next Wednesday.