The Irish Republic turned 1001 today and Dublin hosted a huge parade today at the culmination of events centered on the 1916 Easter Rising. The city and country turned out in pride and today was the day to be Irish.
Here’a a random thought: I have been around for one-third of the life of the Irish Republic. My mother has been around for two-thirds, and my nan was born years before anyone took the first potshot at the GPO. Ireland isn’t old at all according to most political metrics, but it has changed even within my life:
- The decriminalization of homosexuality when I was six.
- The introduction of same-sex marriage (I was there!).
- A secular generation who reject the mores of the Roman Catholic Church.
- An influx of foreign-born immigrants, and with them a new outlook from, on and within Ireland.
- The Internet, and with it an effective collapse of media censorship. Can’t get a book? Google. Can’t see that music video? YouTube. Can’t find that awful gory game? Steam.
- Irish-centric forums now offer anonymous outlets for the discussion of Irish matters.
- The legalisation of contraception, just about. I give it a pass because I was in the womb at the time.
- The rise and fall of the Celtic Tiger, and a trickle return of emigrants past.
Ireland has changed for sure: cultural Catholics and non-traditional lifestyles are the new everyday. Outside of Eadaoin, my two closest friends here are a transgender gay couple. I mean, I classmates called me a queer and a faggot for years at school because I stood out. Now there is equal marriage and bigots have to scramble for new things to call us.
Below, I give my thoughts on the biggest changes to Ireland during my life.
The biggest change has been the glacial2 backlash against the Roman Catholic Church. What more Irish trope exists out in the world than us as poor Catholic who drink, beat women and shit out babies? Ireland has struggled with this image, and their successive governments who enforced it. They made a conscious choice to wed the Irish people to the pastoral ideal. As Eamon de Valera himself said:
The ideal Ireland that we would have…would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age. The home, in short, of a people living the life that God desires that men should live.
Look no further than the Mother and Child Scheme of 1951.
Senior leaders of the Church conspired to cover up the abuse of women children by members of the clergy. They had help. Church leaders later refused to acknowledge the abuse3 or cooperate with investigations4. They refused to apologise or even acknowledge victims until coerced by public reaction.
Here is why I needle Catholics: the behaviour of the Roman Catholic Church disgusted me. It is hard to me to extend respect to those who engage in the uncritical promotion of the faith. I left in May 2010, helped by CountMeOut.ie, because I wasn’t comfortable with any association.
And I’m not alone. When I was a kid, it was a social death sentence if you missed Ash Wednesday. You kept your face down and forehead covered if you didn’t have the ashes. But now Ireland has shifted away from the Catholic church. It shocked me in February when I saw some public figure on the news with ashes. Church attendance is on a downward slope, while parents demand secular schools. The next target for activists is Ireland’s Eighth Amendment, which prohibits abortion. They’re angry and energized by their success with equal marriage, and tragedies like the death of Savita Halappanavar.
Assholes across the country slap dick on keyboard about how the influx of foreigners has ruined Ireland. They bleat about Brussels and Paris, attacks planned and executed by spooky foreigners. They also spell out how Ireland is Next. You’ll find it online if you go look. But fuck those dipshits.
Foreigners are good for Ireland. Once upon a time Ireland was a monocultural backwater, a staid Catholic country dependent on tourists on a nostalgia trip for a quaint home country that never existed. Then somebody, somewhere created some jobs and outsiders came pouring into the country. Poles and Lithuanians and Nigerians arrived in their droves with alien viewpoints. And now Ireland has a fierce information economy. We export information, ideas and skilled workers around the world. Ireland trades as partners with the United States and European Union.
Immigrants washed away the old Irish-Catholic monoculture. Today they stand to challenge political norms, a franchised, growing demographic who will shape Ireland over the next decade.
And our precious Irish heritage? Everyone comes from somewhere else. Half of us descend from Vikings and the other half from British or Scottish (me) colonists. What about it if we have a peaceful influx? This is the same old thing redux, except now we’re welcoming hosts instead of the oppressed invaded.
Big Change the Third. Internet access in Ireland went from ‘expensive and rare’ to ‘in everyone’s pocket’ in the proverbial blink of an eye. Except in rural Co. Sligo, but that’s a tale for another day. The Internet is same as the air we breathe-t’s everywhere and you don’t appreciate it until you run out.
It’d be hyperbole if I described Ireland as a hidden ountain kingdom, but at the same time there was a retarded flow of information to and within the island:
- “What would the neighbors think?” Pressure applied from within the family group to maintain social norms. I still fight this today.
- Centralized dissemination of media: Broadcasts only showed one point of view, while print media was censored5.
- The chilling effect of a powerful Roman Catholic Church.
Etcetera. My point is that pre-Internet Ireland was a different place. The Internet brought immediacy, instant gratification for whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted it. We could reach out to our own diaspora in real time. It gave us a multitude of safe and anonymous channels for discussion about anything at all. There was entertainment beyond numeration, banned films and books at our fingertips ready for consumption.
The Internet brgouht a hundred novel new ways to collaborate, learn and share. I met my now-ex wife on the Internet. Most of my contact with my kids for most of their lives has been over Skype. My closest friends live halfway around the world in Indianapolis and Dallas. I haven’t met either in the flesh.
The Internet has done more to change Ireland over the last twenty years than all our patriots, politicians and priests together.
That’s my Ireland. Here we are, here we remain and here’s to another 100 years of it.
1. Kinda. I guarantee we’ll remember the War of Independence next year, and then celebrate the 1922 centenary too.
3. ‘The Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, and Sisters of Charity, have ignored requests by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee Against Torture to contribute to the compensation fund for victims including 600 still alive in March 3014.’ (source)
5: Print media is still censored today.