Monday, November 8, 2010

Why are the Irish not more like the Greeks ?

This was the scene outside the Department of Finance last Thursday as members of Eirigi, the Republican Socialist Group tried to gain entry to the building after a 20,000 man student demonstration against educational cuts. Watch the clip before my discussion on why the Irish are different than the Greeks.

Why are the Irish not more like the Greeks or the French ? Why are we taking it lying down ? Why don't the people fight back, like the Greeks do ? These are questions that have been asked many times over past two years since the Irish economy went into free fall. And as the economic news gets worse and worse and as the country awaits the details of the most draconian budget in the history of the state this question is becoming increasingly more pertinent. In recent months we have seen riots in Greece and the French engage in mass protest so why, many are asking do the Irish appear so passive.

The answer is simple. Ireland is a centrist country. It has always been a centrist country. The Irish people have always rejected far left and far right wing politics. In the 1930’s any political movement that sympathised with fascist ideology was rejected by the Irish electorate. Likewise, far left parties in Ireland have never succeeded in gaining more than a handful of elected representatives. Compare this to lets say the Greeks. The Greeks have a long history of unrest between left and right. This has on occasion taken a violent form with military coups, left wing terrorism and even civil war. In this regard, I for one am glad we are not more like the Greeks. Similarly the French have a tradition of engaging in nation wide strikes that frequently appear to cripple the country and on one occasion in 1968 almost resulted in revolution. The Politically stable centrist model that we practise in Ireland is in my opinion superior to that in Greece or France.

I don’t think the Irish people have been “passive“. If anything I think that is an insult. The Irish people are rightly infuriated with the government whose bogus economic policies have crippled the nation. They will show their fury at the ballot box in the next general election when they eject this useless, incompetent administration. However, the type of violent protest that was seen at last week’s student demonstration will never impress the Irish people. Of course the 20,000 man march which climaxed outside the Department of Finance was an entirely worthy demonstration organised by the Union of Students in Ireland. The demonstration was unfortunately if predictably hijacked by the Socialist Workers Party and particularly Eirigi, the Socialist Republican Party whose only agenda was to cause a riot in the hope that it might trigger wider violence. But this will not happen. The political fault lines in Ireland are different than most European nations. The Greeks have a left right divide that stems from their post war Civil War. The Irish system, rightly or wrongly stems from the political split that followed our independence in 1922. That is not going to change anytime soon. So we are not like the Greeks or the French and I am glad. As a nation we are just going to have to get stuck in and chip away at our budget deficit from both sides and in the meantime, replace our government with one that promotes sustainable economic growth, not the boom or bust model of the Celtic Tiger Era.


Anonymous said...

"They will show their fury at the ballot box in the next general election when they eject this useless, incompetent administration"

This is a passive approach. It may be right or wrong i'm not sure. But this type of approach could be what has landed us in this mess in the first place. If the government get their way, it could be 2012 before the Irish electorate get the chance to "show their fury". It will be too late by then. We are a financially bankrupt nation, who continue to pay our public servants the highest salaries in the world. See todays Irish Times research, that shows the highest paid public servants within the education sector alone. 430 of them earn more than e110,000. While dozens earn in or around a quarter of a million. We are squandering billions on remunerating lazy, under performing state employees. This rings true for every other sector. Our judges, politicians, hospital consultants, teachers, quangos, mercs, etc etc etc. They just don't get it. As in, they actually don't understand the financial figures. As a nation, It could be to our detriment that we sit back, take it, and let "due process" take its course.


edufactory said...

For the record, almost everyone in that video is not a member of eirigi.

Graham Lynch said...

For the record also, the protest was not 'hi-jacked' by anyone. Such pure and utter boll*x

Ted Leddy said...


Thanks for your excellent comment. I will respond in detail tomorrow.

Ted Leddy said...


Thank You for your comment. I can appreciate that. And for the record, I was in complete support of the demonstration, even though I do think means tested fees would be acceptable given the circumstances (another debate). But I know the SWP and Eirigi. They DO NOT care about registration fees. They are anti establishment activists who reject the Irish political system in its entirety. They have been actively attempting to promote social unrest for years. They see the current situation and the student registration issue as a perfect opportunity to do this. It may be that regular students were behind the argy bargy. Fair enough I suppose if the demo just escalated that way. But organised unrest at demonstrations is SWP and Eirigi's main thing. I hope the USI leadership have the good sense to keep these groups at arms lenght.

Ted Leddy said...

Graham Lynch

In fairness, I wasn't at the march so I could be off somewhat in terms of what extent the demo was hijacked. But I was at enough student demonstrations during the early part of this decade to know that the SWP and especially Eirigi like to attend demonstrations (not of their own organising) in order to stir things up. Eirigi have a particular hatred for the Gardai. I have no doubt they were the ones throwing stuff at the cops who in fairness had to prevent students from entering the Department of Finance. I wouldn't however hold it against any legitimate student demonstrator who got a bit carried away and was involved in some scuffles.