RTE journalist Fergal Keane ‘enlightened’ the nation as to why Irish people did not resort to rioting in response to the economic collapse (Drivetime, 13 Dec.).
He gave two reasons:
One: Irish people know the consequences of political violence; we’ve lived with it for 40 years or more.
Two: A collective sense of guilt. Everybody sinned in one-way or another. People took out too many loans; they bought stuff they shouldn’t have bought. Everybody felt responsible so we all took responsibility for it.
Keane could not be more wrong in his assessment and his ignorance reflects a disturbing lack of awareness within the media in general but particularly within RTE of the reality of how Ireland is really governed.
Let’s take the political violence argument first.
Keane, along with a great deal of Irish journalists, politicians and other commentators, has this bizarre idea in his head that, somehow, political violence in Ireland is special.
So, the death of an Irish citizen by bomb or bullet is infinitely more painful, more horrifying than the violent death of a citizen in Iraq or Afghanistan.
I remember a few years ago Ryan Tubridy losing the run of himself during an interview with a victim of the Northern Ireland conflict.
I’m so impressed with your courage; your suffering is surely the worst in history. (Or words to that effect).
I could almost hear the gears grinding in Tubridy’s head:
A bit over the top Ryan, what about World War One and Two, what about the Holocaust, the Inquisition, the countless billions of others who suffered and died in wars?
He eventually spluttered: Of course that’s not to take away from others who have suffered throughout history.
Leaving aside for the moment the absolute horror and loss personally suffered by the victims of the NI conflict it was, in reality, a dirty little war fought over a long, long, thirty years with a tiny death rate (about 3,000) in comparison to over half a million and counting in Iraq, 100,000 and counting in Syria which includes the death of nearly 7,000 children and over 4,000 women.
As for those of us in the Republic, there was no war, no suffering apart from some bombings and shootings which, while horrifying for those involved, did not have any substantial affect on the lives of the general public.
This apparent widespread idea that political violence in Ireland (1916, Civil War, NI conflict and all the rest) sets the Irish above the rest of the world in terms of political violence and suffering is part of the delusion that allows journalists and others to live in a bubble of denial.
And it is from inside that bubble of denial that Keane formed his second reason as to why Irish citizens are so docile in the face of the ongoing economic catastrophe.
I’ll come back to this in my next article.