Evolving Irishness (9) the disintegration of ‘faithinireland’

A few months ago I did a series on evolving Irishness – one that never quite got finished. I think it ended with this post.

I was going to look at the unravelling of the three cords that held classic Irish nationalism together – the territorial, the sacral, and the noble historical narrative of freedom and liberation.

Well to fast forward via some symbolic moments – two in the last week:

Territorial: sorted and parked gratefully in 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and the moderation of Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution to include Unionist consent.

Sacral: on 21 March 2012 the publication of the Summary of the Findings of the Apostolic Visitation in Ireland didn’t quite put it this way, but I would – the narrative of a triumphalistic 20th century ‘Catholic Ireland’ ended in a “a great sense of pain and shame”. Whatever the future of Catholicism in Ireland it is going to be a profoundly different sort of story in the 21st century.

Historical: As Diarmuid Ferriter concludes in this Irish Times article, the publication last week of the Mahon Report on top of Moriarty and others, may well lead to a fundamental re-assessment of the entire historical narrative.

As late as 1997 Tom Garvin was proposing convincingly that Irish politicians, despite mistakes and sins, managed to create and sustain a viable independent state against all the odds.

Now we have the most popular Taoiseach of the modern era jumping before he was pushed out of his own political party and being one of the most (conveniently) reviled figures in Ireland alongside Seanie Fitzpatrick of Anglo Irish Bank.

Ferriter writes

But the cumulative affect of the various tribunal reports, most recently Mahon, may require political scientists and historians to question or qualify some of their earlier assumptions about the achievements of independence.

For fundamental questions are everywhere today on what sort of Irish State developed since Partition. These are words from Mahon and he’s being all judicial and polite:

“systemic and endemic corruption”

a devaluing of democracy itself

“corruption affected every level of Irish political life”

“little appetite on the part of the State’s political or investigative authorities to combat it effectively or to sanction those involved.”

“general apathy on the part of the public towards . . . corruption” and its “corrosive and destructive” consequences

I said ‘conveniently’ above about Bertie, because a lot of people voted him and Fianna Fail in repeatedly, especially in the 2007 election when what Mahon was talking about was public knowledge. Mahon poses questions about the very structure of Irish political and social life – one’s Fintan O’Toole picks up and says this

And what, finally, of the other big part of the story: public tolerance for toxic political behaviour? It seems obvious now to point to the rage and contempt hurled in Ahern’s direction as evidence of a great sea change in attitudes.

A sceptic might point to Michael Lowry’s 14,104 votes in North Tipperary last year. And a cynic might ask the most uncomfortable question of all: would Bertie still be elected taoiseach today if the Celtic Tiger were still roaring along? Given the choice between easy money and hard morality, it is not at all obvious that the Irish people would not, yet again, suspend its disbelief in Bertie’s laughable lies.

Ferriter concludes:

As we edge towards the centenary of the events that comprised the revolution of the early 20th century, we face a stark conclusion: this is a State bereft of meaningful sovereignty due to its bankruptcy and a State whose governing culture has been exposed as rotten.

We may have little to cheer about in 2016.

Blimey – when you have Irish judges, historians and left-leaning journalists all sounding like Ian Paisley c 1960s ranting about the corruption, authoritarianism and darkness of ‘Catholic Ireland’, whatever you may think of Dev, you know things have gone rather pear-shaped for his vision of Irish sovereignty, freedom and integrity fueled by strong spiritual values.

Given the title of this blog, allow me this 😉 – faithinireland has disintegrated. ‘Catholic Ireland’, in terms of an overarching complete package identity of national identity, culture and religion, has been tried and found wanting.

There is a sense of a need for a new beginning and a fresh narrative around today and it isn’t clear (to me anyway) what it might be or where it might come from. Given the austerity being imposed by the Troika, being enthusiastic Europeans  is less appealing. Sinn Fein are doing well but only in a reactive way.

If that’s one rather bleak sketch of the current culture, what implications has this for ‘gospel ministry’? Or to put it another way, what has the Christian narrative to offer in a culture suffering from a crisis of hope?

Comments, as ever, welcome.

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