Identity and Vision

What did the journey from boom to bust in the first decade of the twenty-first century mean for Irish identity? Was there a sense that materialism had come at the expense of a ‘traditional’ Irish value system? While it may have been the case, as argued by a sociologist in 2007, that ‘the issue of identity…crystallizes around the issue of whether Irishness, as we understand it today, is fundamentally determined by an oppressed past or a privileged present’, the challenge after the crash was not just to get to the truth of what had happened and why, but also to respond to it with some new vision and in that regard, those running the country were found wanting. Crucial themes- fairness, public service and the nature of society- were undoubtedly neglected during the boom. While it became commonplace for cultural commentators to assert that it had never been more fashionable to be Irish, there was a lack of critical engagement with the baleful effects of an overtly materialistic approach.

In 2007, Irish Historian, Gearoid O Tuathaigh, while lauding the positive changes witnessed in Celtic Tiger Ireland, also suggested that “what is striking is the almost total absence of any clearly articulated or elaborated coherent social vision by political leaders in recent decades…the general run of statements of social policy have rarely ventured too far from the safe zone of economic managerialism which has become the general zone of political discourse”.  He also highlighted that a “failure to articulate, still less to systematically take steps of achieving a coherent and persuasive vision of social solidarity, based on a set of values and principles that would enjoy wide public endorsement, has resulted in a series of confused, inconsistent or contradictory strategies being announced and pursued- in regional planning, health and housing, integrated planning of infrastructure, crime and the causes of crime- an incoherence which continues to cause widespread frustration, confusion, disappointment and anger among different sections of the community.”


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