Ireland 2023: Geldof's view
Bob Geldof - The animus for this total national change was of course the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. Photograph: carlet Page/Mercury Records/PA Wire.
This article is part of the Ireland 2023 supplement published in The Irish Times. The supplement, a project to support Hireland, seeks to envisage how a newspaper might reflect a brighter future for Ireland a decade on.
We are all well aware that a mere seven years ago the government took it upon itself to launch what was in retrospect the greatest revolution in Irish economics since the founding of the State.
The animus for this total national change was of course the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. A then wholly anonymous civil servant, Pádhraic (pronounced through the nose, Pour-ick) Ó Cailinóg wrote his now famous paper “Ireland: A Re-Imagining” in which was set out nothing short of a national boot up the hole! It would not be entirely untrue to say that all of us living today are living in what may rightly be called Pádhraic’s Ireland.
That famous first line “Are we Feckin’ Eejits or wha?” was for the Irish their very own Aux armes citoyenes. This now historic question for which Ó Cáilinog will be forever remembered by his grateful fellow countrymen struck a nerve, a chord, call it what you will, in the soul of every Irishman who felt betrayed, slighted and downright humiliated by the shysters who had fucked him over in what was then laughably called “the recession” and is today more commonly referred to as “The Complete Balls-Up”.
Ó Cáilinog wasn’t messing around. Out went (in no particular order or logic) shysters, spivs, conmen, crooks, bankers, brokers, bondholders, mortgage pimps and insurance pushers, loan sharks, “developers”, accountants, architects, thieves, liars, meeja commentators and most journalists (except Vincent Browne for some unknown reason), lawyers, child abusers, the entire Catholic Church and their actual physical churches - taken apart, shipped to Italy and re-assembled brick by brick to house the undeserving poor of the Vatican.
This mass clearout of “Gobshites. Gougers, Yahoos and Corner Boys” would continue with 99.9 per cent of all political parties and their adherents. A traditional hard man in many ways, Ó Cáilinog, was at the same time a very modern Irishman. He was like Éamon de Valera for example, never afraid to show his more feminine side – this well known stickler for the principles of interior design. In “Culchshire”, perhaps the most notorious albeit revolutionary of all the “Re-Imagined” chapters, Ó Cáilinog rails cogently against a vast range of “reactionary pseudo-Nationalist tripe”; potatoes, leprachauns, shamrocks, St Patrick (“and other codology”).
The entire Gaelic language and unspellable, unpronounceable, made-up “gaelic” first names (“God spare us”). False bars, pantomime pubs, made-up pretend food like Boxty (“for Jaysus sake!” as POCo so ably put it), cod bonhomie, winking, whistling tunelessly though your teeth and generally pretending that life couldn’t be better when every reasonable logic would lend a sane person the clarity to see that the opposite was true.
But this was not to be some mindless or brutalist Irish version of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, much less a Pol Pot-type Year Zero extermination of an entire past. Some cherished national institutions were to be preserved under the pragmatic criteria of efficacy and sentiment but with a newly re-invigorated sense of purpose.
CIÉ for example, that venerable but hopeless national transport carrier, would merge with its newly close neighbour the CIA. “Shir aren’t they almost the same name anyway,” declared POCo in that inimitable way “and don’t them spies need cartin’ around as much as ennywan!” Bord Na Móna would be re-named and re-cast as an official complaint complaints bureau for all the begrudgers, backtrackers, backstabbers, reactionaries and “the usual posse of whingers and whiners” who either refused to go along with or couldn’t get their head around the Revolution. Bord Na Moaners would be the place for them. ESB would be the precise opposite.