Staying positive despite the crisis
The economic and social upheaval of recent decades has affected the public confidence, decision-making and attitudes of Irish people, sometimes negatively. But the underlying mindset has remained consistent. The most important things in life are still regarded as good physical and mental health, followed by security, family support, friends and moral values. Having money comes towards the end of the list.
In spite of persistent economic gloom over the past five years, Irish people have retained a remarkably positive outlook. Nine out of 10 are “fairly happy” or “very happy” with their lives at present, while four out of five believe that next year will continue to be positive for themselves and their families. Social confidence and pride in being Irish has grown while attitudes towards work and ethical issues have become more positive. Large majorities now see themselves and their colleagues as hard working, well educated and honest, a considerable change over a 25 year period.
An Ipsos MRBI survey on Changing Ireland, Attitudes and Values confirms the loss of influence by senior politicians and churchmen because of scandals involving financial corruption and child sexual abuse. Home and family are now the dominant opinion formers, followed – some way off – by the media. Church attendance continues to decline, as does adherence to church teaching. In making serious moral decisions, more than three-quarters follow their own conscience. A larger number supports the ordination of women and would allow Catholic priests to marry.
Twenty-five years ago, when Ireland was experiencing high emigration and the Celtic Tiger not even a gleam in an entrepreneur’s eye, there were few foreign workers and we blamed many of our economic problems on laziness. That changed in the boom. Close on 10 per cent of the population is now foreign born and a majority still holds immigration to be a good thing. There are, however, rumblings of dissent and a worrying number believes there are too many immigrants.
Membership of the EU is seen as extremely important, even as concern is expressed about closer integration and its political leadership. A united Ireland remains a strongly held, long-term aspiration and has gained supporters. But more than one-third do not believe it will ever happen. Support for the Irish language has also grown, even as the ability to speak and to understand it has shrunk. Confidence in Ireland’s prospects remains high, as does appetite for change. A full constitutional review is favoured, even as support for political parties becomes more volatile. People worry too much about the economy and not enough about their neighbours and the environment. The ideological tug-of-war involving Boston and Berlin goes on.