YOU'D have to wonder what has been — up to this moment in time that is — the point of the Republic of Ireland.
I mean we all know there was the desire to get rid of the Brits and be in charge of our own affairs, but from James Connolly warning that changing the flag alone would mean nothing, to Peadar O’Donnell’s claim that we never had a revolution in Ireland, but just a change of management to those Republicans who have variously refused to recognise the legitimacy of the state, we can see many have wondered all along what the point was.
The majestic Irish writer John McGahern has a character in one of his books say of his time fighting in the old IRA, “What did we get for it? A country, if you’d believe them. Some of our own johnnies in the top jobs instead of a few Englishmen. More than half of my own family work in England. What was it all for? The whole thing was a cod.”
So was the whole thing a cod? Emigration has continued to run through Irish life like a part of being Irish and indeed it could almost be said that the establishment of an independent Republic simply made emigration more officially Irish.
The generations of the 1950s, the 1980s, and the 2010s especially will always be able to testify that emigration appears as much an accepted and expected part of Irish life as GAA Sundays in the summer and rain on any day you care to mention.
Was it such a consolation to my mother and father that they left an independent Irish Republic safe in the knowledge that the Republic had simply abolished emigration for a certain few and that this certain few were probably the certain few who were safe and well at home well before Ireland was a Republic?
Yes, I can’t help asking about this Republic of ours, can’t help wondering about this Republic of ours, for I have now seen in my 15 years living here one after another of the institutes of the establishment and the State fall into disrepute.
Such is the latest fallout from the garda whistleblower case that a member of the Cabinet has called the Department of Justice ‘not fit for purpose’ and the most recent report now suggests garda behaviour was so extreme that even murder cases were not properly investigated.
Now, whilst we all knew that the gardaí would turn a blind eye to certain things if they knew the people involved, or give people a stiff warning rather than a ticket, this was seen as proof that policing here was still a community thing and that the divide between the gardaí and the community was minimal.
No one imagined that gardaí habitually bribed and intimidated witnesses, neglected cases for no apparent reason, or concocted cases against people. But now details are emerging that proves this goes well beyond speeding tickets and suggest the resignation of a Garda Commissioner and a Minister for Justice was not just an unfortunate series of events.
So where does it end? Where in our Republic are the areas we can still take pride in?
The political class stumbled on in the common knowledge of Charlie Haughey’s ways, but the Mahon Tribunal showed that his protégé Bertie Ahern was a true chip off the old block and the economic collapse showed that the political class was, across the parties, self-serving and vain.
Such is their decline that politics itself has no credibility and the masters of Irish politics, instrumental in the establishment and development of this Republic, Fianna Fáil, were found to be the worst of all. The Church, so often depicted as the saviour and guardian of the Irish people, has been found to be guilty of the utmost evil and depravity and of shielding this even when it became aware of its own failings.
Ireland is still just about a Catholic country but that too is a thing without credibility and whilst people might still have a faith they no longer have a belief in mother Church. Even the GAA, so pure and so different from the sordidness of other sports, is soon to come to a Sky Sports screen near you.
So, yes, I think we should ask and I think someone should furnish an answer. Why do we have a Republic? What has been the philosophy of our Republic, apart from getting rid of the Brits, what has been the point?