One Island, Two Failed States - Tommy McKearney | An Spréach

A century has passed since Irish men and women, with overwhelming electoral endorsement, rejected foreign rule and convened the First Dáil. Drawing inspiration from the 1916 Proclamation, they issued a Declaration of Independence and a Democratic Programme. In the years that have elapsed since, little has been achieved that would justify the optimism of those historic days. The political entity north of the border is a byword for failure while the southern state masks its deep running inadequacies by highlighting the success limited to its well-off upper class.

The political and administrative chaos that is the northern state is clear for all to see. Rancid sectarianism mixed with endemic corruption in the body politic has resulted in a statelet that is in terminal decline. It should be kept in mind, that it was not sectarian bigotry or light fingered politicians that produced the unlovely state of Northern Ireland. On the contrary, it was the creation of the artificial Six County colony that inevitably resulted in the sorry mess that is now bedevilling its creators’ present day heirs in London. 

Rapidly changing demographics, frustration in Britain at problems arising from the backstop, the seemingly endless stories of political scandal, and all of this taking place against the embarrassing backdrop of a socially reactionary Unionism  has left the North’s constitutional position in a twilight zombie zone. While the DUP remains firmly of the opinion that the earth is flat, the moon is made of cheese and that Stormont will stand red white and blue through eternity, a significant percentage of unionism is now reconciled to the ending of partition. 

When the Ulster Farmers Union and almost every business organisation in the Six-Counties criticise the leading party of unionism for its ham-fisted response to one of the major issues of the decade, the message is ominously clear. The smart money is on change.

In contrast, the southern state appears to be an oasis of calm and good governance. From a distance, this may seem to be the case. With the Taoiseach’s department alone spending almost €500K in the past 18 months on publicity videos, it is easy to see how attention may be diverted from reality.

A reality, nevertheless, that is far from the pleasant and jovial atmosphere enjoyed by the South’s bourgeoisie and their political representatives in Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. Reality such as hired mercenaries being employed by bankers and dispatched to evict a group of pensioners from their family home in County Roscommon. Or the reality of tens of thousands of citizens living in temporary or unsuitable accommodation while too many working families are paying exorbitant rent. Moreover, life for working people in the Republic is becoming more fraught as a report by the think tank Tasc recently  pointed to the fact that 44 per cent of workers in the state are ‘precariously employed’. Adding to this picture of misery is a health service deemed recently as among the EU’s most unequal and a police force plagued by recurring scandal.

In light of the situation south of the border, it is deeply worrying to realise how much control of the people’s destiny lies in the hands of powers outside the state. The value and exchange rate for the  Republic’s currency, the Euro, is set by the German dominated European Central Bank. In itself this is major dilution of sovereignty but when coupled with other aspects of EU legislation covering competition law and state aid (i.e. the prevention of same) this amounts to transferring economic decision making to centres outside of Ireland. There is also the question of Ireland’s so-called neutrality, now compromised beyond existence by membership of the  EU's Permanent Structured Cooperation on security and defence (PESCO) and opening Shannon airport to US warplanes and armed troops.

In brief, we are looking at a situation in Ireland where one political entity - the Six Counties -  has failed to such an extent that it is in terminal decline while the other jurisdictions south of the border is failing its citizens on an alarming scale. In other words we are looking at two failed states.

How far this is from the ideals advanced in the Mansion House a century ago by the First Dáil Eireann when the Democratic Programme asserted, ‘ … the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies to be indefeasible.’ How distant is the constitution of the 26-Co state that guarantees the ‘rights of private property’ to that of the First Dail’s declaration that, ‘all right to private property must be subordinated to the public right and welfare’ and ‘the right of every citizen to an adequate share of the produce of the Nation’s labour’.

Carried in Issue 3 of An Spréach Magazine, Jan - Mar 2019