The Generation that failed Ireland

The news the Bill O Herlihy lobbied on behalf of the cigarette companies (while he was ambassador of the Irish Cancer Society) was met with a whimper in Ireland.  Okey Doke Bill is popular guy, our fire side avuncular uncle of sport, shur he didn’t mean any harm in it. The very sentiments that powered a generation to fail Ireland.

Years ago when a young boy I stood with my father as we waited with an excited crowd in Thomastown, Kilkenny for the election bus of then presidential nominee, the late Brian Lenihan to arrive. Minutes trundled into hours upon hours, he never arrived. I remember looking at the faces in the crowd that day, as excitement dissipated to annoyance and finally acceptance. Looking back it could have been a metaphor for that generation of Irish who simply failed to live up to their promise.

Garret Fitzgerald said Charles Haughey had the potential to be one of the best Taoisigh that the country ever had. He was right. Haughey was as the Economist labelled him on his death a ‘technicolour politician in a monochrome landscape.’ He was the smart lipped street urchin we Irish tend to swoon for. Too often in Irish discourse we smile at the wink and nod, the one liner, over the dry flaccid truth. Haughey knew it but instead of marking out a direction for our Gaelic nation, he choose instead to play cheap music to our inner demons.

From when he first became Taoiseach in 1979 to his exit in 1992, Haughey was the dominant figure on the political stage who signposted the nod and wink direction of Irish politics. Fitzgerald could never hold the inner ear of the Irish, could never combat Haughey’s gentle slights. Admiredslieveeness fed a culture of cronyism and corruption that today’s generation of Irish have to digest.

Haughey, Burke, Lowry, Flynn. Men and parties our fathers placed their hope in, ran smoke filled race nights and stood shiveringly at church gates for. Lawler, Goodman, Dunne, Ahern, Fingleton, Fitzpatrick. Generational stepping stones leading to Ireland’s institutional weakness and collective moral degeneration.

The raging silence that allowed a pompous church to abuse the weakest. The collective turn of the head that allowed the destiny of an entire country to be controlled by a property market. The gleeful laughter of Anglo’s John Bowe and Peter Fitzgerald as Ireland was lured in a multi-billion debt trap. Action and inaction bred and gestated from a generational norm of cute hoorness.

In March 2012 Judge Alan Mahon when presenting the weighty final report on payments to Irish politicians commented that ‘corruption in public life affected every level of Irish political life’ and became so ‘entrenched that it is transformed into an acknowledged way of doing business’. A fitting epitaph to Ireland’s generational failure

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