Friday, April 4, 2008

Fate and Fatalism

I caught the Vincent Browne show on TV3 for the first and last time last night. There was nothing else on, honest. It was vintage, brow-beating moralising by Vincent, inflicted on his unwitting guests. But just as I was about to flick to CSI: Anywhere Else, I caught the contribution by Noel Whelan to the discussion. Noel made an interesting point, to summarise: now that 'Bertiegate' is more or less out of the way (as a major news item) we might see politics getting back to, well, politics in Ireland.

I think he has a point. I've been following the recent debates in the UK about stem cell research and immigration; both subject to intense, sometimes heated, but usually intelligent debate about serious issues affecting citizens lives. Somewhat removed from foreign currency transactions in bank accounts in the early 1990s. Needless to say, most politicians in Ireland would run a mile from either debate, which is a pity really: they're kind of important issues.

Certainly in relation to immigration (a subject I intend writing about in more detail in a future post, as I have in the past), my own exposure to what Irish people are thinking and saying about the issue in focus groups and surveys tells me that immigration could quickly flip from being a 'non-issue' on the political agenda to being a major, divisive issue very quickly. And no, I'm not saying the Nazis are coming: I'm simply making the point that those most exposed to the economic impact of immigration (Irish manual or unskilled workers in the main) are less and less tolerant of the consequences. Consequences that may turn deeply negative in an economic downturn.

Still, with the passing of Bertie we may have also left behind the last vestiges of fatalism. As a recent article in the Globalist put it this week, the story of Ireland in the past twenty years has been a story of how we lost our deeply embedded culture of fatalism. In which case we do not have to take the consequences of change (especially negative ones) for granted.

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