Tag Archives: Fintan O’Toole

Cancellation of police force remembrance stirs debate

The Irish government has cancelled plans to recognize British police forces–many of them born in Ireland–who fought against pro-independence rebels a century ago. The commemoration of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), was set for Jan. 17 at Dublin Castle, former seat of British administration in Ireland and now a historical site used for state events.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s center-right government noted that not only were many members of the police forces Irish, but also some were sympathetic to the cause of independence. Others suggested the ceremony was part an effort to understand pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland, which remains part of the United Kingdom and is now convulsed by Brexit.

Opposition party members and the mayors of several Irish cities said they would boycott the event. One suggested that no other state would commemorate those who facilitated the suppression of national freedom, especially the brutalities of the Auxiliaries and Black and Tans, the RIC’s special reserve and paramilitary units.

Commemorating Ireland’s bloody War of Independence (1919-1921) “will prove delicate for the Irish state for many reasons,” John Dorney, editor of The Irish Story, writes in The perils of reconciliation. “One being the potentially antagonistic result of evoking the political violence of the era. But another is that the suggestion that the commemoration of such a bloody and polarizing time can be about ‘reconciliation’, like the 2016 commemoration of the Easter Rising, is probably wishful thinking.”

At The Irish Times, columnist Fintan O’Toole wonders, Why do we fear the ghosts of dead policemen?:

Is it obscene merely to remember such men? Must there be a hierarchy of victims in which they remain, not just at the bottom but even lower down, in the underground darkness of oblivion?

We have, supposedly, been trying to rise above such mentalities, to accept that history, when it turns violent, sweeps all sorts of human lives into the gutter. A society that has moved beyond violence does not leave them there.

Dorney, however, concludes that “value-free commemorations” of the War of Independence, partition of the island, and Civil War (1922-1923) “in general are not possible. It is not ‘mature’ to impose a false consensus but rather to understand the political differences that led to bloody strife in Ireland 100 years ago and how they shaped the Ireland of today.”

Historian Diarmaid Ferriter suggested “an academic event – a conference or seminar – that would look at the issue of policing in Ireland during the revolutionary period” was more appropriate than a state commemoration.

Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) inspection.

Fintan O’Toole’s ‘State of Us’ series

Fintan O’Toole, a columnist at The Irish Times for nearly 30 years, has just finished a four-part series of reflections about the state of modern Ireland. His thoughts are contextualized by last year’s Easter Rising centenary and the massive political, social, economic and religious changes on the island, north and south, especially over the past decade.

The series is called the “State of Us,” and it’s well worth the read.

Part 1: Ireland’s story doesn’t make sense any more

Part 2: Irish identity is no longer fit for purpose

Part 3: Irish nationalism needs a revolution

Part 4: The ties that bind

Polling and pundits forecast historic election outcome

Ireland appears to be careening toward an historic election outcome Friday. The question is: Historic in what way?

If the Fine Gael/Labour coalition of the last five years can hold, it would be the first time a Fine Gael leader is re-elected as Taoiseach for a successive term since the party was founded in 1933, The Economist notes. County Mayo native Enda Kenny leads the centre-right FG party in the role of prime minister.

But Fine Gael is treading water in the polls, and Labour is sinking. Opposition Fianna Fáil, which had a near monopoly on power in Ireland during most of the 20th century, is rebounding after being punished in the 2011 election for the country’s economic collapse. That has some pundits suggesting the once unthinkable possibility of a grand coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, which each evolved from the bitter split of Irish nationalists during the country’s civil war in the early 1920s.

In public, party leaders say this isn’t practical. They are still focused on winning Friday’s count. But if the results suggest such a coalition is the only way to move forward with a government, you can bet that private negotiations will begin immediately, even as public posturing continues.

Writing in The Irish Times, columnist Fintan O’Toole suggests that “it’s surely been clear to any objective observer that the logic of the fragmentation of Irish politics (now about 10 parties) leads, at least in the medium term, in only one direction: Fianna Gael.” He continues:

When there were two big centre-right parties carving up anything from two-thirds to three-quarters of the vote between them, it made complete sense for those parties to exaggerate their tribal differences in order to generate the sense that something huge was at stake in their tribal competition. But the space they jointly occupy has shrunk; … they now have one comfortable majority between them. If they don’t occupy that space together, it becomes a power vacuum. One can never rule out the ability of petulance, tribalism and vanity to overpower logic, but office is a great magnet.

This suggests another possibility: a “hung Dáil,” or a stalemate due to the failure of any party or bloc of parties to form a majority of newly elected TDs in government, The Irish Times explains. This could mean months of gridlock, and eventually calls for new elections.

For a super-detailed looked at the last polling before the election, see the blog of Dr. Adrian Kavanagh, Maynooth University, FF-FG or Voting Again?

Not much sweetness in Ireland’s post-bailout “success”

Fintan O’Toole of The Irish Times has an op-ed in The New York Times about Ireland being the first country to emerge from its Eurozone bailout. The headline tips off his opinion: “Ireland’s Rebound is European Blarney.”

In part, his piece says:

Everyone wants Ireland to be a good-news story, proof that a willingness to take the pain of prolonged austerity will be rewarded in the end. Ordinary citizens are hungry for some hope. The government, in the words of Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore, was “determined that Ireland would be Europe’s success story.” An influential board member of the European Central Bank, Jörg Asmussen, says, “The Irish program is a success story.” Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany praised Ireland as an example of how crisis countries could turn themselves around.

The only problem is that, for most of us who actually live here, Ireland’s success story feels less like “The Shawshank Redemption” and more like “Rocky.” We haven’t been joyously liberated; we’ve just withstood a lot of blows. We’re still standing, but we’ve taken so many punches that it’s hard to see straight.

Ireland was forced to take 67.5 billion Euro in loans starting in 2010 to prop up banks over leveraged by the property bubble of the 2000s. The damage spread as far as a commercial real estate development in Tampa.

Ireland exited the bailout in December. A few weeks later the country held its first bond sale since reaching the milestone.