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.
In a classic example of rounded, thought-through Pocovian planning, those who completely bought into the “Re-Imagining”, those “yoot” who had a vested interest in this brave new Ireland, those who not only would enable it but who could “feel” it and who believed thy could actually “see” it would now have their own institution in the hallowed halls of the re-branded ESB today known internationally as the ESP! Brilliant.
Die Irischen Volk alerted now and electrified by Pádhraic’s deadly list of National drag finally awoke from their awful inertia of futility, despair and hopelessness and could now see, could almost taste the future POCo laid out for them, equally clearly, in his next list; “What We Want and What We Can Have and You’d Better Give It To Us Or I’m Tellin’ Yeh Wha.”
100 per cent employment and not a point less! Free homes for every man jack of us all! Completely sustainable free energy forever! Always winning ALL our games! Everybody as happy as they could be all the time! Free transport not just in the public sphere but free cars and bikes and electric trolley things for fat people and scooters and trikes for the expected huge rise in birthrate (the Pádhraic Bulge as it has become known) and Jetpacks for the go-ahead young tyros we would soon produce by the bloody bucketload!
Health in the BEST hospitals in the world! Education in the absolute world leading institutions we would create if only “they’d just fuck off and leave us alone”! Tax avoidance for everyone resulting in a 0 per cent tax rate which in turn created Ireland the industrial monster we live in today! The entire country benignly managed by Dún Laoghaire County Council (for whom PO’C had unaccountably find memries) on a 30-year renewable contract. The Luas extended to the entire country looping city, town, village and community in a giant lasso-like girdled spaghetti loop. The Dart joining Éire (that name was another one for the chop btw) with the UK and the Continent all the better, cleaner and faster for to show them Eurocraps how it’s done, shove their loans and conditions up their Eurohole and “go and fuck themselves”.
Why had no-one and I mean NOBODY thought of any of this before. What was it about this man that made it seem so plausible. So possible. So doable!
Ó Cáilinog was no slouch. He wasn’t short of a few neurons I’m telling you. One night sometime in February 2013 he had been browsing Google earth - in those days a sort of pretend map from space. He noticed that some places were VERY BIG INDEED and that Ireland was VERY VERY SMALL. “Jaysus,” he told Ryan Tubridy “we’re totally feckin’ fucked if it stays like that!” This was his now famous “Eureka”, or as he joked wittily with the coltish Tubridy “Eireka moment!!”
Although he hadn’t asked himself a question, Pádhraic’s answer was as simple as himself. Make it bigger!! The rest is history as we have lived it. The dredgers, the giant haulier ships top heavy with hard core, rock, clay, earth, soil, and finally top soil. The sophisticatedly brilliant deals whereby parched countries would literally carve up and carve out their countries and haul them to our rapidly expanding shore in exchange for taking their citizens to our rain-drenched island once everything was bedded down and solid but we had no people to fill it with. “Win fuckin’ Win. Wha?” as he said himself.
The massive expansion into the Atlantic, the renegotiation of national and offshore territorial boundaries, that brief but telling skirmish with the United States as we increasingly neared their shores. The oil finds, the National “Have Another Little Paddy” maternity drive in order to now fill the available greater land mass. The vast increase in population as a result of the fertile women of Ireland stepping up to the reproductive plate and the men, broke if not bankrupt, staying home for once and “getting on with it”, seeing as there was nothing on telly as usual. And as a result the unprecedented baby boom, industrialisation and wealth that came from SIZE!
Was it all so recent? Was there another country once? Lost, Broke. Broken. Shamed. Without hope or idea of a future. If there was it’s gone, good riddance and it’s a country none of us wish to remember or re-visit. But we citizens of this New Model Ireland. This vast, populous sub-continent of Ireland. Éire Nua in Oldspeak, do know who to thank. Pat Yung-Wan as he is now, having reverted from the earlier first flush immigrant patriotic enthusiasms of his Chinese-Irish parentage, itself a too sad reminder of the now disgraced memories of the so-called Tiger Years.
It is undoubtedly because of this lineage that Ireland as a result of its new and intense proximity to the US and its familial link through POCo with the might of China that Ireland finds itself today in such a globally strategic political position. And yes, perhaps it was that classic blend of his mother’s native fecklessness and resignation coupled with his Chinese father’s immigrant drive and gambling compulsion (plus vast family back home and the need to get them all over asap) that led Yung-Wan to his historic conclusions.
We will never know. What we do know is that, were it not for that awful dredging accident in what had been hitherto the mid-Atlantic but is now simply Greater Westmeath, Yung-Wan would have been with us today. We are left with the fruits of his legacy. And what fruits. (Grapes, kumquats and everybloodything.) No Irish child born today will ever again have to say 24 hours later “Do you think I was born yesterday?!” For that we have to thank Pat Yung-Wan, the outstanding genius of the Irish Modern Age.
Bob Geldof is a campaigner for social justice and lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, which reformed a decade ago.
The Irish Times & Hireland
Hireland is a not-for-profit social movement. It aims to contribute to Ireland's recovery by helping to generate one job at a time by tapping into collective entrepreneurship and by underlining people are central to the solution of Ireland?s current economic and social difficulties. To date its efforts have helped create more than 4,000 new jobs. Run on a voluntary basis and including many young job seekers it challenges employers, institutions of State and Irish people to think differently about how they can play their part in creating a better future for Ireland, most notably in creating jobs.
It also believes that envisaging better conditions for the Irish economy and society helps improve sentiment and translates into an increase in genuine job creation, sooner rather than later when there is overwhelming evidence of up-turn.
As part of their activities for 2013, they wished to feature how a newspaper might reflect a brighter future for Ireland a decade on. The Irish Times is supporting the project by publishing today a special edition of what, perhaps, might be carried in the issue of January 30th, 2023, with contributions from reporters, columnists, outside contributors and letter writers.
The contents may be fanciful, come with a humorous twist or be tinged with wishful thinking, but it is primarily designed to highlight some better options, broader thinking and the possible merits of pursuing certain courses in an imperfect world.