What would it be like if Ireland had never left the United Kingdom? What benefits did independence bring us? Did we use it wisely?
Let’s see now.
Maybe we should start with our language. Free from the yoke of foreign oppression did we express our cultural individuality and restore Irish to its position as the everyday means of communication throughout the land?
Eh, no, actually. The majority of our people leave school after 12 years tuition without a word of the language. Since 1922, the Gaeltacht areas have steadily reduced to a tiny fraction of the area they covered under British rule.
So, no marks for us there.
What about healthcare? Well, not that either I’m afraid. In Ireland we pay through the nose for all medical treatment, if we can get access to it at all. Our hospital consultants get €150,000 more than their British counterparts. You’ll pay your GP a large amount of cash for a 30-second chat. We pay ten times as much for prescription medicine because the government has a cosy deal with the pharmaceutical companies keeping generic medicines to a minimum. People routinely lie, and die, on trolleys in hospital corridors.
Hmm. Not great there either, unfortunately.
What about education?
Well, most schools have inadequate staffing levels, soon to be cut further, and have primitive sports facilities if any at all. Many schools operate from crumbling Portakabins and rely on parents’ donations to survive. The education system is in crisis.
I might mention another unique feature of independence: the fact that most of our schools and many of our hospitals are owned and controlled by the Catholic church. This is a blessing we’d have been deprived of if we had remained part of the UK.
Of course, we’d also have missed out on the rape and brutalisation inflicted on tens of thousands of children in the industrial schools, because of course those heathen British didn’t see fit to put religious orders in charge of such things, though admittedly it was a British government that gave them control of the schools in the nineteenth century.
We’d also have missed out on the wonderful Magdalene laundries, in which thousands of young Irish women were imprisoned and enslaved by nuns for committing the unspeakable crime of becoming pregnant. We wouldn’t have had that but for independence.
We have a government that gave a billion euros of your money to protect the religious orders from the consequences of their actions in abusing children. We’re giving another billion euros to build a children’s hospital in the wrong place, and hand it over to the Sisters of Mercy — one of the most prominent of the abusing orders.
Maybe I might just add that in all religious-owned schools and hospitals, the equality laws are suspended. You can be sacked for holding the wrong religious views, or for being an atheist, even though the State pays all running costs and salaries.
What else did we get from independence? Well, we got a prohibition on contraception that lasted for fifty years at the insistence of the Catholic church. We got a ban on divorce that was only overturned in 1995. We got a ban on almost every respected writer in the world, again taking fifty years to overturn. Last month we got a new law making it a crime to offend somebody’s religious opinions.
We got a constitution dictated by an archbishop. We stayed neutral in the face of unspeakable evil as the rest of Europe resisted Hitler, though thousands of our men made their own minds up and enlisted in the British and US armies. We remained neutral in pusillanimous self-righteousness, earning the status of pariah nation, which was fiurther exacerbated by de Valera’s visit to the German embassy to express condolences on Hitler’s death.
But let’s have another look at how we are now. What about public transport? Oh wait. There isn’t any. No marks there, then.
Energy resources? Well, not that either, I’m afraid. We’re giving our gas away free to a foreign company, and we have done little or nothing to promote wind power or wave power despite the waffle we hear from the Green Party.
Communications? No. We sold our national telecommunications network to an asset stripper and now have to rely on fraudband. What’s more, we have a minister for communications who has no idea what any of it means.
We have what seems like dozens of Tribunals to inquire into political corruption, police corruption, planning corruption, and in each of these we pay lawyers €2,500 a day — A DAY!! — to ask questions or in one instance to operate a projector.
What about our electoral system, though? Isn’t that a great thing, and much better than the British way?
Well, I suppose the single transferable vote is a great system as long as we’re happy with members of parliament who behave like county councillors. Ministers afraid to miss a funeral in their constituencies. Party colleagues stabbing each other in the back. A ruling political party owned body and soul by builders and property speculators.
We have 166 members of parliament to represent 4 million people, and most of these elected representatives have no skills, educational background or specialised knowledge in any area except political survival and pulling strokes. We elect idiots to our national parliament. We have a prime minister in this tiny land who’s paid more than the president of the USA.
We have had a succession of people leading this country who aren’t fit to stack shelves.
Since 1922, we have had constant emigration apart from a a period in the Sixties, and more recently, over the past decade. Apart from that, we have not been able to sustain our population, and now our young people are on the move again, thanks to the incompetence and corruption of our political leaders.
And now, in this independent Ireland, we face the prospect of our government transferring €90 billion from the taxpayer to the wealthy bondholders who took a risk on Irish banks. Irish citizens will be forced to suffer for three generations so that a small group of billionaires don’t lose on their bets.
Only this week, we saw the spectacle of a publicly-elected representative, Martin Ferris, greeting two killers on their release from jail, having done ten years for killing a policeman, Jerry McCabe, in the course of robbery. The killers are out and free, while Jerry McCabe’s family face a life sentence. Martin Ferris belongs to a party that supported decades of killing in pursuit of the independence ideal.
Give me something to cling to here. Please.
But don’t tell me we regained our pride by going independent. Pride is not a word in large supply these days.
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