Words of wisdom from a minister 30 years ago


We came across an interesting speech this week from a senior Fine Gael minister. It was delivered to the Clare constituency branch of Fine Gael.

Here’s a taste: “Alas, we have witnessed evidence of a loss of communal values in our own State. Some of our leaders have put their own ambition above the Irish interest, they have borrowed and spent recklessly in our name and at our expense, and have otherwise behaved in brazen and dangerous ways at home and abroad – contrary to the shared values of all sides of the political house of Ireland.

“They have shamed themselves and their own. Ireland has suffered as a result – both at home and abroad.

“Our job in Fine Gael is to revitalise our sense of being Irish, of belonging together, of being responsible for each other, of taking pride in our country and in our people. That is the only basis to the national self-confidence we now desperately need to prosper and to solve our greatest problems....”

The words of Peter Barry, minister for foreign affairs.

Spoken in June 1983. Thirty years ago.

Plus ça change....

And here he is on the Young People, that special group so beloved of our leaders:

“...Sometimes I weary of the welter of rhetoric about the youth of Ireland being our greatest national resource. Those who lay most stress on it plainly do not believe a word of their own tirades on the subject. I have the impression young Irish men and women themselves find it patronising or even nauseatingly insincere to be treated as a caste apart.

“Most of all, I dislike this rhetoric because of its outrageous and absurd implication that the rest of the Irish people are somehow less valuable, less important, less precious.

‘Wisdom of the old’

“The greatest resource is, indeed, our people, all our people, and among our greatest resources as a people are, of course, the blazing energy and idealism of the young as well as the steadiness and wisdom of the old.”

Here endth the lesson for 1983 and for today.

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