Whither Ireland?

A few days ago I attended a meeting about how to resuscitate Ireland’s economy (not quite in those words). The people in the room were influential ex-pats and second generation Irish Americans, and one thing about them was striking: most of them were over sixty, and most of them were male.

I was present as a member of the media, and I was lucky to be able to attend (we were only allowed stay for the first half hour); but I couldn’t help thinking, who were these men? CEOs and VIPs, admittedly, but did they know what twitter was? Not that knowledge of tweeting is needed if you’re to save a country. What I mean is, in what way were they the ones best equipped to reboot the so-called Smart Economy?

Senior corporate males do have a place in the conversation about Ireland’s economy — they certainly know well how to succeed within their own company structures — but surely at this stage our nation’s representation should be more diverse. I couldn’t imagine, somehow, my bright, clever friends in London, New York or Dublin being invited to this sort of event. And they weren’t.

As we walked away from the gathering, I discussed this fact with a colleague, who lives in New York and who happens to be gay. We spoke about how alienated we had felt in Ireland, growing up. It was only when I left that I really felt free.

At the time, I thought it was just me — that I was too paranoid to cope with the smallness of Dublin life (I am quite paranoid), and that it was simply my fault I couldn’t fit in — but when I’m a fly on the wall at meetings like that one, the issue seems broader. Where are the entrepreneurs, the young bright sparks, the ‘well-educated young people‘ that the government so often boasts of? Wherever they are, they’re not being consulted about what’s happening. Not only that, but those who emigrate, as so many are expected to do in coming years, will have no say in the country’s future. As the Citizen’s Information website observes:

If you are an Irish citizen living abroad you cannot be entered on the Register of electors. This means that you cannot vote in an election or referendum here in Ireland. (The only exception to this is in the case of Irish officials on duty abroad (and their spouses) who may register on the postal voters list).

During the next week, I hope to have some guests-posts by Irish people who don’t fall into VIP businessman category, but who are, nevertheless, well-educated and well-informed. They may not agree with me — they may say things are great in Ireland — but I hope they’ll give their take on what life there is like.

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5 Responses to “Whither Ireland?”
  1. Padraig McLoughlin says:

    It’s funny, that group sounds almost exactly like the group called to Farmleigh house for a similar summit to solve the economy last year, and remarkably similar to any group of “influentials” invited by the current regime to any function here. Not sure about the New York Irish things, but here the main requirement to get into those circles is a good FF pedigree.
    That being said I distrust seeing people under forty at forums like that; I just always assume they’re there because of who their parents are.

  2. Frieda says:

    That’s quick off the mark. This event was a sort of spin-off of Farmleigh, the Global Irish Network (of VIPs). I’m not sure how participants were selected.

    As for your second point: how deeply cynical you are! It’s true that it would be difficult to decide which young people were ‘important’ enough to join in, but there must be ways to open such discussions up to more participation: for example, organizers could advertise the event and then choose someone by lottery to represent young ‘uns? At the very least, they should look for more female participants, of any age.

  3. mary says:

    your comments are a bit naieve – of course age has an advantage because it has an experience – handwriting dreamers who know how to read the stars are often more in touch than twitterers……….or any band of youth culture that is assumed to bring in something different when all it is is same o same o in a new form…….what the irish have done is acted out their all too familiar pattern of abuse and reabuse only this time through money……..it was a nation of people that let it happen the same way anation of people averted their gaze to child abuse. It’s nothign but the same old story only this time the irish can’t blame anyone for it they did it to themselves

  4. Frieda says:

    Thanks Mary, I like your idea that the Irish took the same attitude towards financial corruption as they did towards abuse — ignored it. And you’re right that the Irish have only themselves to blame this time round. Whatever our individual politics are, we as a nation voted in the government that failed to regulate the banks.

    I’m not sure whether you’re saying my blog-post or my comment above is naive … but I want to clarify: I definitely think experience is valuable and I’m not saying we should throw the baby out with the bathwater; just that I believe the government should solicit some views from younger people, and enable their participation more than it does. I was also disappointed by the low proportion of women (of any age) at the event. The lack of Irish women in politics is a known issue (http://vinnymurphy.blogspot.com/2010/10/robinson-congratulates-hume-on-irelands.html).

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  1. […] and to my weird little cat. I’m very grateful to the people who wrote guest-posts for my blog series on Ireland — it was exciting to have so many different views on the subject. (See here and here and here […]



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