What is it? What is the difference between Donegal and Tyrone? And I don’t just mean in Gaelic football.
Last Friday morning, I was trying to put my finger – or, more accurately, my foot – on it.
Yes, it is something tangible. Crossing the bridge between Lifford and Strabane, I felt it underfoot – or, rather, underwheel. Tyrone is harder.
Donegal is chilled out; Tyrone is decisive. Donegal is relaxed; Tyrone means business. Whereas at 11am last Friday, Donegal was an open-air ice rink, Tyrone was gritted.
The difference between the North and the south is grit – granular, abrasive grit.
In Donegal, the sensation under the wheels of my car was of soft, flaky, unpredictable snow. As I slid down the hill in Letterkenny and skated down the road towards Raphoe, my car and those around me transformed themselves into treacherous, mechanical versions of Torvill and Deane, pirouetting, slithering and sashaying chaotically down the N14.
Driving in the snow was a huge game of chance.
At the roundabout outside Letterkenny, as my wheels tried to grip the road, I was overtaken by a happy-looking fella on a horse. ‘‘Fuck you Mitsubishi, I’ve a horse outside,” as the Rubberbandits might say.
Once over the bridge at Lifford spanning the river Finn into Strabane, however, just past Caldwell’s Motors, the unnerving driving lottery gave way to easy predictability.
Cruising through SionMills, Newtownstewart and Omagh, the experience was almost pleasant. There was no shortage of grit in Tyrone; nor was there a salt shortage because it had to be imported from Spain.
The snow fell, the roads were treated: job done ,move on. It can’t be too hard.
But that basic function seems to be beyond us in the south.
Why do we tolerate this down here?
Why do we tolerate a council that can’t grit properly, or a National Roads Authority with no evident authority?
Why do we put up with a banking system that gambled our money – and other people’s – and destroyed the economy in the process; state boards being stuffed with acolytes just weeks before the government falls; or our children being given the bill for the reckless borrowing of Irish banks and the concomitant reckless lending of the German banks?
Why do we tolerate emigration as a solution?
Why do we go along with the economic drivel spouted by those with obvious vested interests who argue that more debt is the solution to an economic problem which we all know was caused by too much debt in the first place? How long will this go on? Not for long, is the short answer. We are on the cusp of what could be huge political change, if the last few weeks are anything to go by.
Last Thursday night in the wonderful GrianÃ¡n Theatre in Letterkenny, I finished a three-week nationwide tour of Outsiders, the show I have been doing around the country. With emigration on the rise again, it seemed appropriate to finish a national economics tour in Donegal – a county that has seen more than its fair share of emigration. An GrianÃ¡n was packed and, when we opened the house for a questions and answers session, the appetite for political change was palpable.
Up and down the country, from Cork, Ennis and Waterford to Longford, Tralee and Galway, the same pattern had played itself out. The same question came up again and again. It went something like this: ‘‘I know Fianna FÃ¡il has ruined the place, but I am not seeing a real alternative.”
Last Tuesday in a packed DraÃocht Theatre in Blanchardstown, Dublin, the unanimous verdict of the audience was that they didn’t want to vote for Fine Gael or Labour either.
The dissatisfaction with the alternative was as obvious as the disdain for Fianna FÃ¡il.
Maybe this is a little unfair on the opposition parties, b ecause there are obvious policy differences between them and the government, but Fianna FÃ¡il has succeeded in destroying the credibility of the whole lot of them. Some achievement!
Thousands of people from all walks of life, from rural Ennis to suburban west Dublin, from Galway and Waterford city to Cork, Letterkenny and the commuter belt around Newbridge, all expressed the same frustration. They want an alternative – not just to the government, but to the whole system.
They feel let down by the entire political establishment. Here is an electorate suffering the biggest economic crisis in a generation, and it has no faith in the opposition’s ability to drag us out of the crisis.
From what I have seen, I just do not believe the opinion polls – or at least I know that people are ticking boxes out of a sense of resignation, rather than enthusiasm.
They realise that the IMF/EU deal means we are borrowing from tomorrow to pay for yesterday and, in so doing, forgetting about today. They know the state boards are stuffed with mates and hangers on, and they know that they are going to have to pay the salaries of these quangos.
They know that, thus far, the opposition has not been radical enough. They fear it has become institutionalised, when the institutions themselves are at the core of the problem.
This means that the election is wide open. It is difficult to explain why the main opposition parties have failed so manifestly to galvanise the people, but clearly there is a vacuum. There are plenty of good people on the opposition benches, but they haven’t managed to convince many voters of their merit.
Nature dictates that the vacuum will be filled – by someone or some movement. Sinn FÃ©in is gaining ground at the moment because it is radical.
Change is coming: if those in our mainstream political class don’t control it, the change will control them.
People feel it is time, not for tinkering with the old system, but for totally rebuilding it. This is an exhilarating and slightly frightening proposition.
Last Thursday, driving to Letterkenny via Sligo, deep in Yeats country, I passed under mighty Ben Bulben and thought of how apt at that moment was the opening line of his poem, The Second Coming, penned in 1920.
‘‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”
David: Thank you for including Donegal on your itinerary. This county is usually regarded as an inaccessible offshore island, except for that week in August when the D4 lot besport themselves at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties.
It pains me to say this, but the reality is that the 1916 rising and all that followed was a mistake. The initial response of the populace of Dublin to the insurgents, of throwing rotten fruit and eggs (or whatever) at them, was, in hind sight correct. This going it alone, nationalistic, nonsense has brought this island nothing but grief. The dramatic difference in winter road conditions across the border being a glaring (if not slightly trivial) example. We talk about civil war politics, but all that nonsense about English oppression is in effect “famine politics”. It really is time… Read more »
Had a look @ the ww.rsf.ie site and they haven’t got a word to say about Ireland’s bankruptcy! The last 2 winners of the Irish Apprentice are both English .Great education system Ireland has !Lol.
http://www.uti.is , an Icelandic view of Ireland.
As long as I can remember, we in the South have been messier and less caring than our cousins in the North, about the state of our surroundings. Your anecdote regarding the condition of the roads on both sides of the border was very descriptive. Add to this the growing gap in value for money evident during our bubble years. When linked, as you have done, with the very indifferent quality of our public administration, it begs the question, what does all this say about us? We elected these leaders, counsellors and TD’s. I agree that we need a very… Read more »
//Change is coming: if those in our mainstream political class don’t control it, the change will control them.// Are these the same people who either directly got us into the mess we are in, or sat silent in opposition? The centre has not fallen, it has just been exposed, as bonuses to banks (including Anglo) continue, as people are tossed out of their houses, as my 80 year old aunt eats appalling food (she has actually refused to eat the stuff so we bring her sandwichs and ice cream to keep her going) in the public ward of our city’s… Read more »
Well I’m glad you mentioned Sinn Fein. I don’t know that much about them but I know they are radical and I’m voting for them. Something has to change. I’ll be reading up on their policies a bit more before the election and interrogating their candidate when he knocks on our door. The other parties will be getting it slammed in their faces. Any change from the status quo is a good one at this stage as far as I’m concerned. Even if Sinn Fein are not capable of governing themselves (which I honestly don’t know if they are, at… Read more »
Sorry David but I cannot agree that “it is difficult to explain why the main opposition parties have failed so manifestly to galvanise the people.” It is patently obvious, they are not offering a real opposition. They have already begun to tell us that there is no alternative to the IMF/EU shock doctrine. When a mainstream party tells us that they will not load the gambling debts of an elite on the people of this country then we will have a real alternative. Until then I am voting Sinn Fein.
brilliant as ever,can you please hold a virtual election fast whereby you form together a party of decent concerned individuals say 20 citizens with the expertise knowledge of law,finance,,health,education,business.interview 40 more normal candidates and have an online/twitter poll/election, because their counting on us to do nothing but a load of talking about it, the ones jumping ship now ,are coming with the private funds to take over the state esb,water,council etc.etc…..if not you then gather ex politial figureheads who has worldwide respect to lead the charge….why not
I think it is possible that Ireland Rep can make its own way in the real world.
Some citizenry think it cant be done and so interface with the global central banking system as a servant to its usury debt system. And its casino gulag mudslide continues.
I say sovereign money is possible and doable but it will mean self reliance and hard graft.
Rakst Ã¡ Ã¾etta lag – kveÃ°ja frÃ¡ Ãslandi:
Allens of Caldwell :
My family arrived from England to the Golden Vale during the famine however almost two hundred years before that my relatives in England then arrived in Caldwell with Cromwell .They have a prominent business there now.
Agreed -It is both an exhilarating and frightening proposition- I have been checking out SF policies and checking out their core following. The overriding policy seems to be two fingers to everyone but themselves. You are either with them or against them- and the aggression on some of the forums shown for people who question them, sometimes seems to outweigh the tantalizing prospect of Gerry Adams and McGuinness squaring up to the IMF/EU at the negotiating table.
The vacuum that David mentions can only be filled where there is the best available ‘Political Structure’ that we can trust and maybe that is Sinn Fein .
What is the alternative?
Tim / furrylugs – I remember you said words to the effect that it is better to reform a party from within now at this juncture which party do you prefer that to happen?
Well David, you should have mentioned what happened when you left Tyrone .. did you cross into Fermanagh ? There was no grit here over the weekend.., and yet there was in Co Leitrim. And if its public service then look at the English public service and private ventures, and the carnage the length and breadth of England at the moment. We haven’t started to pay for our banking debt yet. The quiet revolution has hit us with devolved government eg.. 9K tuition fees in England – It will be interesting to see what the SF minister for Education proposes… Read more »
To every registered voter south of the border: I will refrain from listing off the 1000s of reasons why SF in government in Ireland is a bad idea. All I will say is that there is a precedent for this and I am using it here not for effect but as an observation only…. There was once a successful European country, industrialised, educated and cultured. They suffered a huge financial calamity, a financial collapse that led to widespread misery and seemingly no way out. But lo and behold a new, radical political force emerged; sure they had a dodgy past… Read more »
I suppose you could say that we in the Republic have a soft nature, the type that others like to walk all over. The snow in a way reflects Nature and may appear soft but it is a fierce element capable of being merciless and very brutal. So the Irish Government likes to take the soft like approach as seen when negotiating with the IMF/ECB. But the Irish Government is truly brutal and without mercy when it comes to its own nation especially when dealing with certain levels of Irish Wealth Pyramid. They have absolutely no regard for the Irish… Read more »
David another interesting article but the time has come for deeds not words.Our utter civic inertia has allowed these thieves to rob us blind for generations.Sinn Fein?..Fianna Fail and FG are Sinn Fein evolved over 60 years. We’ve been there and sadly done that.East Germany had a one party State.We have a one political class State. The East Germans despite having an oppressive security apparatus grew a pair of balls and removed their elite. Peacefully.A Model for the future? Switzerland. Who’s the President or Prime Minister? I don’t know and don’t care. We don’t need strong national leaders. We need… Read more »
I just one of you stood up and started instigating some change, then it would happen. Instead you seem to be waiting for someone else. No courage. During my 7 years in Ireland I found a remarkable lack of any real “boat rocking”. Even now this continues just as the boat is headed for the ocean floor. The Irish have no problem confronting ficticious enemies abroad, but simply do not have the courage to confront the deadly ones at home. Very sad.
Yes there is a little appetite for change. However even if the alternative was available to the people, are they brave enough for the change? And we aren’t talking extremes. Going by the UK elections where the people wanted change and had a very different party with the UKIP. UKIP took no seat. The people choose Lib Dems who are like our Labour (A right of centre and less authoritarian than the others).That took the safe change which is no change. http://www.politicalcompass.org/ukparties2010 http://www.politicalcompass.org/ireland Excellent observation regards polls. I have zero trust in them. A year before any election and the… Read more »
Why is so much cute hoordom, incompetence and nepotism tolerated? Hard to say but here is a theory: Post Revolutionary Ireland very quickly drifted into conservatism and all radical restructuring of society abandoned. The post boxes got painted green yet the superstructure remained the same. The weirdest part was that a post-colonial society was governed in a way that quickly came to resemble colonial government. Growing up in 70’s Dublin I was always struck by how few Guards were from Dublin when it comprised one third of they country’s population. It was garrison policing – men who neither knew, understood… Read more »
‘The Mighty’… very true
Could not make to LK as much as I wanted, but being 45 minutes drive further north, and the roads even more so dangerous, a drive to LK would not only have put the car at risk.
@MrADC try crossing the road before the lights say it is OK in Germany.
Acoustamajive. I completely agree with you! Where was ‘anybody’ at the recent two Dail protests against the Budget vote and the IMF vote? A few hundred people, that’s how many! At last week’s IMF protest I counted 100 protestors! On my home I noticed that there was a bigger crowd queueing outside HMV on Grafton St. I made my own banner for God’s sake. The IMF vote! And nobody! Zero! What in God’s name is wrong with people! So if I hear another mention of ‘Ireland’s well educated workforce’ I shall scream. I was embarassed, not for myself and the… Read more »
I have been following the coments now for some time and I find that they add greatley to the articles. I have noticed lately an increasing urgency for people to come forward and lead us in the change that is coming. I would gladly support David and a few others that comment here. I have no idea how the change will happen but I intend to try and keep informed by reading the articles and all comments .
The lack of credible political leadership is palpable. We all know our politicians owe their positions to the crony system that controls the social, economic and political order in Ireland. We all know they are not permitted to think outside the narrow vested interests of the crony system. They cannot be rational and they wont. They are creatures of the crony system through and through. There is no one a rational person could vote for. The best of a bad lot would be labour. Only because they will at least try to preserve some minimal level of social care and… Read more »
Why does evryone keep trying to blacken Sinn Fein, I think they are just scared of their increasing political mandate. Don’t forget where fianna fail, and the blueshirts originate,are we to go back to the civil war and drag up all the attrocities committed by both sides, and to you westbrit clowns longing to be ruled by the brits don’t forget the genocide and oppression perpatrated by that shower of c**nts in Ireland. I hope Sinn Fein get a great vote and one thing is for sure they will shake up the cosy dail and this country of golden circles… Read more »
We need three new political parties. One to replace each of the current three controlling parties, and thereby provide the voters with a real alternative. And there should be an emphasis on competence.
Political alternatives are available go and check them out
I read davids article in the SB Post yesterday and was delighted to see a genuine call for action. I must admit I am bitterly disapointed to see the majority of posts to the article are concerned only with bashing sinn fein or bemaoning the fact 1916 ever happened. I have never voted Sinn fein but if you read the following link you will see why Sinn fein are gathering support – http://www.politics.ie/waterford/146199-sinn-fein-amendment-council-budget-defeated.html I found this story on Politics.ie – it is not covered in any national news and I have been unable to google any reference to it in… Read more »
You would think Ruairi Quinn and Richard Bruton (both finance ministers in their time) would be formulating policies and preparing their manifestos etc. or trying to articulate some plan of action. I am no fan of either but they are the best qualified on the opposition to deal with matters financial. Do we know if either can or are willing to work with each other?
Jean-Claude Trichet would send a garrison over here to steer our mob through this if he could. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2010/1220/breaking6.html
Ruarhi Quinn was Minister for Finance when the Rainbow Coalition was toppled back in 1997 by the majority of the Irish Electorate.The economy was in the process of taking off, but as usual the Irish Electorate thought that FF and the PD’s would do a far better job. Now what is that saying? Oh yes, ‘You reap what you sow.’ We’ve only got ourselves to blame for the last 13 years of boom and bust under the different FF led coalitions and now we’re paying for it. I didn’t vote for any of those governments and neither did thousands of… Read more »
How about closing all the golf clubs for a start?
PROSECUTE THE BANKERS??? Story of SHIPWRECK Good ship “Titanic UNLIMITED” is being steered by Petty Helmsman, Paddy, while Master Helmsman is asleep at wheel. Alas, Paddy the Navigator (Pass, second class) is a risk-taker extraordinaire, unafraid of steering the most hazardous waters until one day North-Atlantic drift causes Big Berg to collide and rupture vessel with gushing black hole. Only ONE THING to do — MAN THE LIFEBOATS!! Captain COWEN and First Officer LENIHAN announce to all that no-one need be afraid of ensuing RESCUE DRILL where ONLY Officers and First-Class passengers are going to take up places available on… Read more »
Doherty for Prime Minister.
I agree Mac63: “David McWilliams and others are correct; the country is being run for the good of the few (Elite) not the general population. We do need Revolution, but not warfare, not blood in the streets, we need Democratic Revolution.” Learn and understand the term “rent-seeker” if you want to know this elite. The tax system is designed by rent-seeking parasites here in the land of Oz, too. No, nt the try-hards who TRY to make it in real estate, but the few who have clawed back many times more than they’ve ever paid in taxation through the uplift… Read more »
… and didn’t you abolish your residentail property tax in 1997, at the (cooincidental?) break-out of your property bubble?
Tonight’s Prime Time programme leaves me feeling so frustrated that, unless the main opposition parties start clamouring for 6-YEAR RETROSPECTIVE TAXES ON BONUSES and RETROSPECTIVE LEGISLATION to tackle developers’ attempts at avoidance and evasion of responsibilities, then even a pacifist like me will have to contemplate voting for SINN FÃ‰IN/IRA.
No significant protests will happen until the cuts bite. Not many care about the IMF or the ECB or the errant bankers until the consequences start to impact their daily lives. The “Realisation” will be the event of 2011 and from that will come the real anger. Up to now, Ireland has been populated by a contented majority who learned to keep the peace for fear of fuss or a row. The rot of the elites thrived in this environment. When the cuts come, the thirst for change will be huge and subjective and emotional thinking will dominate. Not good.… Read more »
“Talking about a revolution” now Tracey Chapman had a song about that.
David McWilliams has sounded a clarion call.
As I have already stated there is plenty of great commentary and analysis at this forum.
In the spirit of David’s latest article I invite all to consider the following and apply their analysis and commentary to ourselves:
“…that willingness to take personal responsibility for making things happen is one of the things we need most right now.” – John Michael Greer
What will your new year’s resolution be?
It seems like such a long time ago that I started posting on this blog. Lot of ground covered since then. Most of it “sadly” came true.I am sure David that even yourself, in your most pessimistic mood, you did not think that things would be as bad as this. You were using your gut instinct and your ear to the ground in Ireland, while I was modelling on the computers down here in Perth and getting feedback from Frankfurt and friends. Jasus man these fools in FF and the DOF etc. were never going to fool anybody. They have… Read more »
Why REVOLUTION won’t happen…… Cheap housing is a good thing because you can pay workers less, the Irish working population is about to be conditioned to accept vastly lower wages thru cuts and 4 years of austerity taxation. Ireland owes Germany so much money there will be political pressure on German multinationals to offshore work to Ireland to make sure we can repay the loans. Irish mortgage slaves may be unable to afford their 2007 mortgage payments, but it is in “Germany’s” interest to have people working in Ireland and living in the housing stock Germany now effectively owns. Sure… Read more »
Funny how David got to Donegal and still thought he was in the south of the country. When did Republic become a dirty word?
Despite the disaster of FF govt and the inept opposition the Sunday Independent sees fit to have about five articles attacking the Shinners last Sunday. What did they do to deserve this?
I watched Frontline last night – I did not get to see Prime Time Investigates. Doherty was able to attack. But I heard no clear idea of what exactly he is proposing. Basically, SF have copied the Gilmore tactic of being saying that everything that is going on is unacceptable, the angry act, being worked up in a fury, and pressing the national pride button. Basically Doherty is the new Gilmore, except he is better at pursuing the Gilmore strategy than Gilmore. And unlike Gilmore, Doherty does not have a wife who sold a site to the department where she… Read more »
Compare rock bottom UK prices with Ireland !
Quote (repeated from an earlier thread) from JJ Lee in response to posts from Deco and El Quebrin above: “Emigration was not unique to Ireland. But the type of emigration, the scale of emigration, and the impact of emigration were. In no other European country was emigration so essential a prerequisite for the preservation of the nature of the society. The interests of the possessing classes came to pivot crucially around emigration. But as the spread of emigration during the nineteenth century chanced to coincide with the growth of national political consciousness, with emphasis on the family as the source… Read more »
THE PEAK PERIOD FOR NET EMIGRATION FROM THE UK WAS FROM 1980-1982 WHEN A CUMULATIVE 100,000 PEOPLE LEFT.PUTS IRISH FIGURES INTO CONTEXT!