Minister says patriotism can offer certainty in modern world

Paschal Donohoe tells Parnell Summer School patriotism should be two-sided

At the Parnell Summer School in Avondale, Co Wicklow, yesterday were Minister Paschal Donohoe with fellow speakers Cllr Kate Feeney (left) and Heather Jones, associate professor of international history at the London School of Economics. Photograph: Cyril Byrne.

At the Parnell Summer School in Avondale, Co Wicklow, yesterday were Minister Paschal Donohoe with fellow speakers Cllr Kate Feeney (left) and Heather Jones, associate professor of international history at the London School of Economics. Photograph: Cyril Byrne.

Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 02:09

Patriotism has a role to play in helping people to cope in a globalised world, according to Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Paschal Donohoe.

Speaking at the Parnell Summer School in Avondale, Co Wicklow, on the theme of ‘Patriotism in the 21st century’, Mr Donohoe said patriotism was sometimes viewed as an old-fashioned concept.

“Old ideas of patriotism, such as blind loyalty and unquestioning obedience do not sit well with us, and for good reason. History shows that powerful institutions like church, state or business must be challenged and scrutinised, so that they work for the common good, and not their own interests. To do otherwise can lead to scandal, corruption or dysfunction.”

He said ideally patriotism should be two-sided, with the institutions of state being something people can be proud of, and interaction with those institutions being something people see as being in our their personal interest, especially in a changing and uncertain world.

“Ireland today is one of the most globalised countries in the world, and it is certain that small countries like ours face a particular set of challenges and opportunities in the new globalised order.

“But not in the way you might think. It is tempting to believe that the big forces of globalisation could overwhelm small countries, but there is much evidence to the contrary,” he said.

Finding their place

Mr Donohoe said the difficulty for small countries was that people felt increasingly unsure. “That is where governments and institutions of state, here and in other small countries, can find their place in the new patriotism, by offering their people more certainty and more security in this new world.”

Kate Feeney, a Fianna Fáil councillor in Dún Laoghaire- Rathdown, said people of her generation could not remember anything other than relative peace and normality on this island.

“We are, collectively, much richer than almost anywhere else in the world. And, we are the first generation of Irish people since the Normans invaded to be at peace with our nearest neighbour and with ourselves.”

Saying that for many in Ireland the word patriotism conjured up images of armed struggle to secure independence, she added: “Those battles belong in the past and, all too belatedly, the gun has been taken out of our politics. However, surely limiting our view of patriotism to the battles of the past, limits our sense of what my generation and future generations can do to improve our country.”

Ms Feeney said that – ironically given she was speaking at the Parnell Summer School – two of the innovations introduced by Parnell, politicians’ pay and the whip system, were two of the greatest sources of frustration and disillusionment with our political system today.

Challenging Parnell

Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin also queried aspects of Parnell’s legacy. He said Parnell’s famous declaration, “No man has the right to say to his country, Thus far shalt thou go and no further,” needed to be challenged.

He contrasted Parnell’s words with those of British nurse Edith Cavell who, the night before her execution by the Germans for helping the Belgian resistance in the first World War, said: “Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”