Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pride turns to shame

IT is increasingly difficult to be proud of Ireland, proud to be Irish.
Like most of my countrymen, I am patriotic if not nationalistic. And, when I travel abroad in particular, I like to tell people what a wonderful country this is.
No more.
Even when Ireland was poor, there were many reasons to be proud.
During the 1980s, when the country and its people were on their knees, we were proud.
(Of course, we didn’t know then, that our Prime Minister, Charles Haughey, was as corrupt as it is possible to be and that he would leave a legacy of corruption.)
We enjoyed Barry McGuigan winning his world boxing title, the success of Stephen Roche and Sean Kelly in the cycling world, the relative success of our rugby and soccer players. We loved Johnny Logan winning Eurovision, the embryonic careers of the boys in U2, Phil Lynott’s rocking hits and so on.

Now, our sports men and women are as successful as ever. Our rugby players had a fantastic season, things are looking up for our soccer players, our athletes are winning medals - even our cricketers are doing well.
U2 is still the biggest band in the world. But now we can add wonderful talents like Republic of Loose, Fionn Regan, Damien Rice and so many others.
Our actors are on the world stage. Our Irish dancers are earning millions all over the world. Our artists are sought after.
So much to be proud of.
❏ Today, this country is deporting a Nigerian woman and her twins, one of whom suffers from autism.
There is no treatment, no special school, nothing for autistic children in Nigeria.
Despite our wealth, there's not much in Ireland.
But there's something. But now, little Great Agbonlahor won't even get than.
St Patrick, they say, brought Christianity to Ireland. This government is deporting it with little Great.
❏ We are a country of emigrants which frowns on immigrants. We turf them out if they come to Ireland as economic refugees, precisely the way millions of Irish arrived in countries all over the world.
❏ We spend millions on politicians’ vanity projects - gyms in the Dail, illegal car parks on Leinster Lawn - and yet refuse to meet our commitments to the poor of the world.
❏ We trample over our heritage at Tara for electoral gain and to satisfy the construction industry. Opening the rail line was the sensible option, the planet-friendly option. But of course, that wouldn’t have opened up land for development, for DIY stores, retail parks and hotels, the fate that awaits Tara, thanks to our feeble ‘Green’ heritage minister.
❏ Our politicians have given themselves 22 pay rises in the past ten years whilst the poor of our country have, in relative terms, received only crumbs.
❏ Corruption is still rife. If you don’t think so, just look around the country at over-development, at the places where builders have been given permission to build despite the infrastructure being utterly unable to cope.
❏ We have a government led by a party whose members feel far more comfortable in the company of wealthy builders than they do in the company of the disadvantaged, for whom they are supposed to care.
❏ We have wealth. But we spend it on construction while at the same time, fighting in the courts, the parents of autistic children who seek only what care they should be getting in a rich, civilised country.
❏ We kow-tow to the Americans caring not a whit what prisoners they bring through Shannon, what troops pass through on their way to kill or be killed.
❏ We have ministers constantly telling us what they can’t do, having spent an election campaign telling us all they were going to do.
❏ We have a Taoiseach who, to his utter shame, took handouts, massive handouts from friends and strangers and never offered to pay them back. Worse still, he keeps changing his story about amounts, currencies and dates.
And shamefully, most people seem to adopt the “I’m all right Jack” attitude to it all.
We now live in an Ireland where builders are more important than the poor, roads are more important than schools, construction is more important than the climate change and power and wealth are more important than almost anything.
Which is why pride has turned to shame.

No comments: