There is certainly no denying it – our nation, the Republic of Ireland, has changed dramatically. Fortunately, that is something we can all agree upon, as we have all witnessed it, even in a short space of time. Though, it is of my view that this change has mostly been of a negative nature.
The ideals set forth by the provisional government in the 1916 proclamation have neither been honoured nor fulfilled. I am not a dreamer, I do not believe that a purely utopian society is achievable; however, I am pragmatic, and I believe that a dystopian society is most definitely avoidable. I acknowledge the fact great strides have been made on the front of LGBT rights, with the legalisation of equal marriage last year. Our nation may have pulled apart from the authoritarian regime of the Holy See for the most part, but we are now bowing to self-serving corporation big dogs. This needs to change, a new ‘Rising’ is essential in order for Ireland to prosper as it should.
For the vast majority of my life, I have called the remote, and indeed scenic mountains of Arigna my home. As is typical of any community in western Ireland, Arigna has been heavily impacted by the mass movement of its inhabitants to elsewhere. Thousands of people have parted ways from their place of origin through the years, both in the form of immigration to nations such as the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, and migration to larger Irish towns and cities. Every single household in this region has been affected by this in some way or another, my family is no different. My father left Ireland for the U.K. in the late-1970’s at the young age of nineteen years in search of employment opportunities. Whereas my mother’s family has a long history of immigration to the U.K., where she was born, and to far-flung cities in the U.S. such as NYC, Peoria, IL, and Kansas City, MO.
Growing up in such a place is a constant reminder, a place where forestry plantations and wind turbines now dominate the landscape once scattered with countless thatched cottages, smallholdings, and livelihoods. Growing up here reminds you of what once was – the remaining remnants of former cottages, which are striking in their hidden abundance, have been justifiably compared to as mere “piles of stone.” It is rather poignant to think about the lives that were once lived in this dying valley. The extremely crowded conditions in which people lived would undoubtedly be considered a health hazard today. However, in spite of the beautiful surroundings, the Irish countryside was not a pleasant place to live. It is of vital importance for every Irishman and Irishwoman to not forget and to always remember all the hardships our ancestors had to endure and all the adversities they had to face – even after the end of British rule.
It is against this background that I know all about Ireland’s so-called ‘brain drain’ and the consequences of years of negligent governance. “We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland,” reads a memorable sentence of the 1916 Proclamation. Personally, the Corrib gas controversy springs to mind – regardless of the intensely passionate pleas of Irish citizens, Dutch and Norwegian MNCs were granted the right to seize our nation’s resources. The ignominious imprisonment of the innocent Rossport Five must be written in bold in all of Ireland’s history books. From my perspective, it was an infringement of human rights and democracy; the Irish government disrespectfully undermined the likes of Pádraig Pearse and Seán Mac Diarmada.
There is an underlying burning irony behind the government-sponsored 1916 centenary celebrations. Our nation’s people need to launch a ‘New Rising’ by reimagining Ireland and the way in which it is governed. Progressive left-wing politics is needed, I say enough of the never-ending tennis game between the barely-dissimilar Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. It is as if the Irish people are too frightened, or more likely too oblivious and naïve, to realise that we are under no moral obligation to vote for either of the previously mentioned political parties. We are no longer in the 20th century, it is a new millennium and it is time to reshape Ireland from her perimeters right to the very core.
A ‘New Ireland’ – ‘An Éire Nua’ – and a ‘New Rising’ are absolutely crucial for this Republic if we want to move towards a fairer, more equal society. We shouldn’t have to settle for this because we don’t have to. Change is much like a stream, you can halt it temporarily, but eventually the current will overpower you and take you along with it. I say let’s make this inevitable change the right kind of change. An egalitarian renaissance.