Saturday, February 25, 2006


Weekend Guest Post

The following article was written by Frank Neary. I'd like to thank him for contributing to United Irelander.

Peace, Like Prosperity, Trickles Down

Every great journey begins with a single step, an old Chinese saying goes. More recently, Mao Tse Tung said he thought it was too early to know if the French Revolution of 1789 had been a success. They're not wrong. Here on this island of Ireland we're only ninety years into what UK Conservative MP Dominic Grieve has called 'a period of national self-assertion'.

Neil Kinnock, the Welshman who led Britain's Labour Party through two General Election defeats in 1987 and 1992 once told the Militants at his party conference that 'you can't play politics with peoples's lives'. And he saw them off.

The past year in Ireland saw the announcement by the Provisional IRA that its war is over. We have also marked the the thirtieth anniversary of Eamon de Valera's death, and the State has begun preparing to commemorate the Easter Rising of 1916.

Coinciding with this outbreak of politics we have seen continued economic growth in the republic and a new emphasis by Ministers North and South on developing the all-island economy and enabling improvements in peoples' physical and social well-being.

The party political divide in the Republic has long been characterised as civil war politics — Fine Gael being pro-Treaty and Fianna Fáil the anti-Treatyites, with Eamon de Valera being cast as the bogeyman who sacrificed his handsome and personable friend Michael Collins for the sake of greed, ambition and Gaelic nationalist ideology. That crude stereotyping has been allowed to conceal real class divisions in Irish society.

Today the political blocks have evolved so that Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats are seen as pro-enterprise, light on regulation, enforcing a living minimumn wage, and commited to moving our economic functioning up the value chain. Globalisation and the changing role of EU farm subsidies mean the land is not the source of production and wealth it once was, and our prosperity as an island depends increasingly on services and higher value manufacturing.

Fine Gael are seen as slightly unworldly, not knowing how our economy works but blindly believing that it can yield as much in tax as Richard Bruton and Pat Rabbite want. Pat Rabbite's role in that partnership is to not know what he wants, and not want anything that conflicts with what Enda Kenny wants. I know. It's confusing.

But Fine Gael's economic unworldliness looks very worldly compared to the Northern Ireland parties whose economy largely consists of jobs in the public sector, and benefit payments.

North and South, Sinn Féin has built solid voter support among those separated to the margins of society, and seems certain to have increased influence in the republic after the next General Election.

An eminent American republican Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1783 that there never was a good war, or a bad peace. Speaking last September on the anniversary of de Valera's death Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said ' Civil War was not uncommon in the newly independent European States that came into being after 1918. In Ireland, it was fought with great reluctance and deeply regretted by almost all the participants. Unfortunately, however, some of the episodes in our civil war created great bitterness and poisoned the political atmosphere for years to come. While, as the historian John A. Murphy has put it, there will always be “those who choose to believe their own propaganda that de Valera started the Civil War” I believe we are rapidly approaching a time when we can all reflect on our history in a more mature manner.

'Another great Irishman Henry Ford, speaking perhaps coincidentally in 1916, said ' History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.

Henry Ford made his place in history by developing a motor car to serve the needs of the modest farm family in America. He found a need and filled it at a price point that was attractive to his target market.

Ford also said ' What we call evil is simply ignorance bumping its head in the dark. '

This weekend hardline Ulster Loyalists and Irish Nationalists will be grandstanding and goading on the streets of Dublin, as is their right so long as offensive, threatening, abusive, insulting behaviour is avoided.

Ninety years on from 1916 it's incredible that we still have a few laggards on this little island dusting off their Model T vintage political platforms, and making themselves look ridiculous, much like Holocaust denier David Irvings. They'd be making better use of their time by finding a need and filling it.

I'm grateful to United Irelander for inviting me to write a post for his site.

Frank Neary

Frank Neary blogs at The Land Of Ireland and is a contributor to the Irish Election group blog.

If you'd like to contribute an article to United Irelander, on any subject you like, email:

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