Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Bring out your dead

The above was one of the posters in the previous Lisbon referendum campaign which invoked the support of the Republican dead for a NO vote. I was very surprised that the YES side let them get away with it, and I still don't understand this lapse in the YES campaign. This invocation is powerful stuff and it must surely strike a chord in the majority of those who were educated up to the 1980s at least. Why then did Fianna Fáil, the Republican Party, in particular, not respond in kind.

I remarked at the time that it was a pity the YES side did not include a similar approach in their postering. That they did not is surely an illustration of the nation's emerging ambiguity towards the 1916 Rising, and this, embarrassingly in the run up to the 100th anniversary in 2016.

When the whole rebel thing got serious after 1969, the IRA's anti-civilian bombing campaign put "constitutional" nationalists on the spot. They could no longer invoke the glorious armed struggle which led to (or just preceded) the foundation of the State without appearing to support the bombing campaign. And Fianna Fáil, the Republican Party, was badly split over the Arms Trial in 1970.

The result was that the IRA appropriated the Republican regalia, including the tricolour, for the most part, and the Wolfe Tones appropriated all the rebel songs, which up to then had been unthinkingly sung by one and all. Jack Charleton eventually clawed back the tricolour through the success of the Irish soccer team but the ballads are still floating around out there in a sort of Republican/IRA twilight.

I can only think that it was these ambiguities which prevented the YES side from attempting to equally claim the Republican dead to their cause, with possibly fatal results.

This time round the NO side have already put Pearse's head on the lamposts, but there is no sign, so far, that the YES side have learned the lesson.

I often wonder how well the YES side actually understand the fundamentals of the EU, at least as originally conceived. When Ireland joined, it was enough to know that the Common Agricultural Policy would break the British stranglehold on Irish agriculture and that industry would have access to a huge market, if it could get its act together. Then there was the Regional Fund, which we milked very successfully. Elections were won and lost on the size of the loot we could extract from those horrible guilt-ridden Germans.

Now we are about to become a net-contributor to the EU in cash terms and we have priced ourselves out of the market by our recent profligacy. Without these earlier tangible benefits, and in the absence of a general commitment to its aims, the EU is becoming a harder sell by the day.

The scare tactics of the NO side last time round are being matched by those of the YES side on this occasion: Ireland needs the EU. A humiliating come down from the hubris of the last round. We are safer in Europe. Safer from what? Our own self-destruction?

If the YES side want to hold their heads high and tackle their opponents head on, they could do worse than trot out their Republican dead, for starters at least.

1 comment:

Póló said...

I had in mind something like this.