• D. K. Blaire

Call for a Second Irish Republic

The time for change is now.

It is almost a hundred years now since the declaration of the Irish Free State and, in many respects, we have come a long way as a nation; facing multiple obstacles and challenges en route to a fully functioning Republic. Joining the European Union in the 70s was a historic event that indelibly transformed the political and economic landscape and, in recent years, we have taken huge strides towards sexual and gender equality; an achievement which, even two decades ago, could not have been imagined possible.

In spite of our progression in various arenas of personal liberty, however, the nature of Irish politics has not much evolved and, regardless of the players who come and go, a corrupt and disingenuous hierarchy of power has, for close to a century, remained very much intact. In my view, Ireland has never been free, nor even truly democratic for that matter and, although we have tried to slap on some make-up and present a pretty face to the world, Irish people have suffered under one form of authoritarian rule or another since time immemorial, and continue to suffer to this day.

One of the greatest fears of the freedom fighters and founders of the Irish State was the power of the Catholic Church, the clergy of which had never really supported Irish independence to begin with. The concern was that, unshackled from the restraints of British rule and of its Protestant brethren, they would be enabled to wield unprecedented power over Irish citizens and Irish public life. And wield they did – controlling our schools, hospitals, influencing the law and the Gardaí, thwarting democratic elections and exerting the kind of power over communities that resembled nothing short of a dictatorship. In many ways, they were above the law, placing themselves as the highest moral authority, while simultaneously committing atrocious and unforgivable acts against hapless victims and the community as a whole.

The avalanche of scandals that began to break in the 70s, along with a new wave of cultural influences flooding in from Europe, finally broke their vice-like grip on the country, yet it wasn’t truly until the late 90s that we finally wrested ourselves and the Irish state from their totalitarian rulership.

Although joining the EU contributed greatly to the advancement of Ireland’s development, our membership with the Union has, in recent years at least, proved to be somewhat of a Faustian bargain. The adoption of the Euro currency at the fin-de-siècle has resulted in a loss of control over fiscal policy and the (forced*) signing of Lisbon Treaty in 2008 basically wrenched the last vestiges of power from the Irish state, transferring them to the Parliament of Europe (and the now infamous Troika).

The subsequent years after the 2008 financial crisis demonstrated our utter lack of sovereignty and exposed the fact that Ireland’s relationship with the EU had devolved from being mutually beneficial to lopsided and overbearing. Years of austerity have also served to sour the Irish mood even further.

There is now a general consensus among European analysts and intellectuals that austerity was a politically motivated policy, ensuring the welfare of those at the expense of the immiseration at the bottom. In spite of mass discontent and outrage (and in complete disregard of democratic values) the moneyed interests and their political lackeys propagated the fiction that the public had “spent beyond their means” and were culpable for the banker’s collapse, and thereby culpable for their debts. EU member countries were essentially forced to make agreements that would mean losing ever more of their state sovereignty through the commitment to implement economic reforms promoted by the IMF and ECB.

As austerity programmes progressed, their contractionary effects were openly observed and acknowledged, yet regardless of the obvious consequence upon the economy and upon innocent peoples’ lives, these contractions were viewed as a necessary evil in the battle to save our economic system. The brutal nature of austerity and the manner with which it was forced upon EU member states led to a crisis of democracy and the revelation, within and between European nations, that the voice of the people no longer mattered – that bankers and elite EU institutions now controlled their country and their country’s policies.

Common sense and the will of the majority do not matter when players as important as the financiers, speculators, gamblers and corporate drones of the world come into crisis. We seem to be able to magic billions of euros out of thin air whenever the elite so much as wave an impatient hand, yet when we have a housing crisis, unemployment or any other social ills, procuring the funds becomes a matter of serious, contentious and protracted political debate that seems to trail off and lead nowhere.

The result of embracing neoliberal dogma has been a schizophrenic economic system divorced from the reality of the Irish people and their daily struggles, which then attempts to compensate for its colossal failures via a welfare system rendered anaemic after years of class warfare (vis-à-vis austerity).Instead of embracing the idea that every healthy citizen has the capacity to contribute to society and to the progress of the nation as a whole, Ireland capitalizes upon the value of exclusion; pitting worker against worker, undermining unions and encouraging the growth one of the largest diasporas in human history. In this kind of service based economy, much of our work-force has become superfluous and little use to corporatists, yet as opposed to being open about this expanding problem, our government insists on towing the line and heaping the blame of unemployment upon individuals for their own lack of competence. Solutions like creating thousands of jobs in bolstering a green economy would never even cross their minds, as they do not think or plan much of anything beyond the next financial quarter.

Preceding and succeeding the heyday of the church, the rise of EU control and the invasion of global tax-evaders, we have basically had a two-party system, much like the United States, who pass power back and forth like a baton every five years. This duopoly, as we know, are Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, which at their core, maintain very little difference between them. They are each self-serving plutocrats who care not a snot for the Irish people or the Republic. They have set up the system in that no other party may gain access to the funds required to run a proper campaign in election season and tied up in the electoral process in double Celtic knots to ensure that no outsiders (or anyone vying for real social equality and social change) would ever enjoy more than a few token seats in the Dáil . This year, the duopoly was temporarily seized upon by Sinn Féin – a party they both disparage for its affiliation with the IRA, yet the only left-leaning party. The landslide defeat these two parties were served this year is testament to the growing disdain for our inept, corrupted duopoly and presents hope that their supremacy is failing.

Hope is a fickle friend to the Irish, however, who are now suffocating under three tiers of control and 3 sources of disenfranchisement – our government, unaccountable EU institutions, global corporations, and tying it all together, the prevailing ideology of neoliberalism. The mechanisms of oppression under this ideology (now dominant globally) are many including, but not limited to, the illusory nature of meritocratic values, the regressive tax system, mass media who attempt to legitimize and normalize this corrupt regime, the surveillance apparatus (which is bolstered not only by social media, but the welfare system and its invasive policies) and the prison system. It is full spectrum dominance.

The brutal and heartless ideology of profit-over-people-neoliberalism has made victims of us all and I believe our sense of purpose, as a species, has been collectively shattered. If our only reason left to survive is to act as consumers for the corporate machine, then we have lost our humanity and there is nothing left to strive for. Under crony capitalism, our lives have become illusory; mere shadows of what they have the potential to be. And yet we carry on accepting the illusions, why? Because we have become too frightened to look behind the curtain; because reality itself has become something to be feared.

Irish people on the whole seem more dedicated to structure or order than fighting justice, more interested in leave-it-be, than equality. Hope, in this instance, can be our best friend or our worst enemy, for it is true that hope keeps us striving forward, yet it is also true that it ignites in us a false, albeit powerful, fantasy that change is possible under this current regime; that one day the elite will wake up to the fact that they are destroying the earth and creating conditions of unending misery for its inhabitants. If history is any guide, however, this will never happen. The narcissism and short-sightedness of the elite knows no bounds. They will continue on their path of ruthless self-interest until there is nothing left. In this sense, their greed is fatalistic, for they know it will eventually destroy even themselves. We must not join their fatalism, but we must also be wary of placing any hope in the system they have created. Real change must come from the bottom. Real change must come from US.

Late-stage capitalism makes a mockery of us all, while simultaneously bringing out the worst in each of us. It represents the institutionalization of envy and thus the enemy of common decency. It is anathema to human virtue. Morality, sensitivity, kindness are traits deemed weak by this system and punished by society, while at the same time selfishness, deceit and greed are, on a grand scale, generously rewarded. What value can be placed in truth, justice, freedom in a system that essentially pits kin against kin in a brutal and primitive bid for survival? It is primitive for it is something we, as a progressive and intellectual society, knowing that cooperation leads to real development, should have surpassed decades ago and yet we still linger on here like forlorn creatures in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

We need to unlearn the lies that have been beaten into us, discard the system we have been indoctrinated into and begin to look beyond the brainwashing, to a place of equality, peace and real human progression. We need to stop believing it is “normal” for a tiny elite to hoard an obscene amount of wealth while others struggle to survive. We need build a country free of the prejudices of wealth and the monetary system; to unshackle ourselves from the chains of a regime constructed by and for greedy bankers, politicians and cleptocrats. We must create a society where a person is judged not by what they own, but who they are and what they want to achieve; a society where citizens have a direct democracy, not based on identity politics or parties, but facts; where education, healthcare and housing are a birth-right and guaranteed to all; where transport is free, efficient and safe; where the work place is as much a part of the democratic process as every other decision that majorly impacts the lives of citizens.

Ireland has become a playground for global elites, a tax haven for trillionaire corporations,

and home to an inefficient, inept, corrupted political system that the vast majority of us have long have given up upon. Where is our rebellious spirit gone to? Jim Larkin, Patrick Pearse and all those who struggled for our freedom would not recognize this country if they were alive to see it today. It is a travesty and an outage to their legacy and to everything they fought for that we have relinquished and abdicated our power for the sake of bowing down to a corporatocracy which would see us all dead upon this island in the morning if only it were profitable to them.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the tragic loss of life, but has also presented us with a rare, some might say priceless, opportunity for real social change. In order to take a stand for this change, however, we must first accept the gravity of our current situation; we must stare into the abyss, taking all of the bravery and courage we can muster not to look away.

The time has come for Irish people to admit to ourselves that we have never been free – we have just traded one master for another, each as cruel and self-serving as the next. It is time (especially for young people) to shake ourselves out of our apathy and realize now might be our last chance to make real demands and see real change. The pandemic has washed away our delusions about how our system really works and replaced it with a vision of a more just and moral society. Equality still lies within the realm of the possible if there is political will and since our political class is too far gone, the will must come from the people. Let us admit that the first Republic was nothing like our forefathers imagined for us or our nation. Let us admit that it is time for a Second Irish Republic.

Potential Features of the Second Irish Republic

I. Formation of a permanent Citizens’ Assembly ( like jury duty in which a select number of demographically representative citizens will be selected to make informed decisions about policies that will majorly impact our people and our country, for example – tax rates*).

II. Make banking a public service as opposed to for-profit companies.

III. Reorganize the tax system from regressive to progressive, (taxing top wealthiest 20% at 65% for example).

IV. Creation of the universal basic income.

V. Create democracy in the work place via the promotion of worker’s cooperatives.

VI. Reduce average work week to 4 days, 7 hours per day with greater options and incentives to work from home.

VII. Place caps on personal income of up to 1 million per year.

VIII. Make housing, healthcare and education human rights, free, and a matter of government responsibility (29th constitutional amendment).

IX. Place cap on inheritance of 2 million; rest goes to public funds or redistribution programs.

X. Reverse the privatization of transportation, water and all other public utilities.

XI. Raise minimum wage to reflect rate of inflation and current cost of living (now est. 15euro p/h)

XII. Create a global minimum tax across the board for corporations with respect to EU regulations.

XIII. Redirect subsidies from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy.

XIV. Huge fines for corporations that pollute and potential closures.

XV. Invest in green technology and environmentally friendly practises (via new tax revenue).

XVI. Create standard rate of pay for all public servants, regardless of sector.

XVII. Increase data protection and laws against unwarranted surveillance and a return to net-neutrality.

XVIII. Create a free and efficient transport system to provide alternative to personal cars.

XIX. Possible referendum for a united Ireland

These are just some sample ideas and of course are open to debate. A further article will explain how a permanent Citizen’s Assembly would operate, possibly even leading to replacement of current government structure to create a more representative and true democracy.

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