Irish Times journalist, Fintan O’Toole enjoyed best-seller status some years ago - number one spot in the Irish book charts - with his masterful exposition, Ship of Fools, which didn’t go on too long and was read by most people with a mixture of lurid fascination and exquisite horror.
The book dealt with how we came a cropper in this country, or if you will, how the Celtic Tiger’s hubristic roars were reduced to a series of whimpering, defeated bleats. Enough is Enough, a further disquisition on our parlous state followed and also sold very respectably.
The new 227-page collection begins with O’Toole’s own essay, The Adventures and Misadventures of an Idea. As always, he has a keen eye for the telling historical anecdote. Recalling Ireland’s various declarations of itself as republic, he argues that “the republic was declared the second time (in 1916) as tragedy and the third (in 1949) as farce. "
De Valera apparently did not attand, and spent time instead at Arbour Hill, where it was said, he prayed for the men of 1916. The Grand National drew a much higher attendance than the ceremony to declare the republic.
O’Toole points out that the Republic of Ireland Act runs to a mere 96 words. “It could be so short because it had nothing to say, nothing to bring into effect,” he writes. People emigrated in their multitudes after the new republic was inaugurated, and there was little marked improvement in general health, prosperity or education for decades afterwards.
Other contributors to this thought-provoking gathering include Elaine Byrne from the Department of Political Science in Trinity College, Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor of the Irish Independent and poet Theo Dorgan.
Elaine Byrne too looks astutely to the historical evidence. Almost 5,000 lives were lost in the War of Independence and the Civil War, as Irishmen and Irish women attempted to fulfill the bold republican aspirations of 1916. 3,722 people died during the Northern Troubles. “Thus human sacrifice for an Irish republic has been offered again and again in the absence of any proper definition or acknowledgement of what a republic is,” writes Byrne.
Yet, Elaine Byrne and her fellow contributors all argue in their various ways that a real, workable and decent republic can be reclaimed from the botched version we currently and painfully endure.