Madam, - Historically, one of the options open to a major power wishing to absorb or annex a smaller country over a prolonged period was gradually to integrate the elite and notables of the smaller country into the social and political establishment of the empire. Could this be what the British are trying to do to the Irish state by awarding titles of nobility to selected Irish citizens? The latest prominent Irish person to receive a British state honour is Bono, frontman for U2.
Bono is to be awarded the title Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. There are some on this island who will share Bono's feeling of being "very flattered" by the award. There are, however, many others, myself included, who will be saddened by Bono's acceptance of such an award, as it should be seen as an attack on the republican and egalitarian ethos of Bunreacht Na hÉireann.
Sooner, rather than later, Irish society must make fundamental decisions regarding its political identity, ethos and future policy directions. Will we continue along the path of nation-building, slowly and painfully trying to assert a distinct, post-colonial Irish identity in alliance with the nations of Europe, or do we now instead see ourselves as part of the so called "Anglosphere", realigning ourselves ever more closely with Great Britain.
This is a serious question, and it is being posed because recent Irish Government actions and trends suggest that the Irish State is making a significant shift away from the type of political identity that has been projected since the establishment of the Republic of Ireland in 1949. Until recently, the ethos of the State was nationalist, republican and separatist in terms of putting a distance between ourselves and the British polity. This distance was expressed through symbolism and ceremony, as well as through actual legislation. The 1937 Constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, provided the ideological underpinning of this order.
We are now seeing an attempt to incrementally deconstruct the Irish State and restore a British dimension. The Irish Government has remained silent on this issue for too long. - Yours, etc,
TOM COOPER, Delaford Lawn, Dublin 16.
Madam, - It may have escaped Bono's notice in his redoubt in Dalkey or tax bolt-hole in Amsterdam, but there is currently an enquiry going on in Britain into "cash for honours". Not for one minute would I suggest that Bono could be implicated in any such alleged scheme, but it is particularly disappointing for many of us who admire his long campaign to help the Third World that he should feel it necessary to accept the discredited currency of the British honours system. - Yours, etc,
PAUL ARTHERTON, Lenaghan Crescent, Belfast.
Madam, - The acceptance of an accolade from the British Empire, which is built upon and continues to sustain Third World poverty, excludes Bono from speaking for the poor. Bono provides a smokescreen for the continued rape of Africa. His friends in Anglo-American Gold announced £16.8 billion profit for the previous six months from one of their 67 gold mines, as he sought £12 billion over four years from the eight richest nations on earth.
Bono and his pals have long supported the idea of Africa being a "developing" continent, rather than one systematically being impoverished by the West. Bono may feel genuine empathy for the poor of Africa. But if he wishes to improve their lot in life, he should address the issues which have sustained their systemic impoverishment, and not cloud them by talking about easing an illegitimate debt imposed by the World Bank, created specifically to maintain this poverty, and then accepting a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth. - Yours, etc,
PAUL O'TOOLE, Thorndale Park, Artane, Dublin 5.