Design a site like this with
Get started

Where did generation rent come from?  

02/03/2023. Weekend Holly Cairns, the new leader of the Social Democrats, photographed at Leinster House (see interview by Jennifer Bray). Photograph : Laura Hutton / The Irish Times

In a recent speech to Dáil Eireann TD Holly Cairns described herself as a member of the first generation that is worse off than her parents. 

The 33-year-old Social Democrats leader said she longed for “a fairer Ireland where it’s easier for people to get by” and “where keeping a roof over your head… isn’t such a struggle for so many people.”

Cairns’ intergenerational anxiety is borne out by the facts: a recent study by Eurostat found that over 40 per cent of 25-34-year-olds in Ireland still live at home with their parents; in 1993 two-thirds of people in this age bracket already owned their own home. 

As the author Dharshini David once observed in his book The Almighty Dollar: Ever wonder why young people can afford more clothes and phones than their parents and forbearers but not a house to store them in?

As I pointed out the Sunday Independent recently: Ireland’s story is A Tale of Two Economies: where Irish GDP has skyrocketed, reaching sixth in the world per capita, but the prospect of owning a home for young adults has plummeted.

Much of this paradox can be attributed to Ireland’s rapid economic growth. The land that once attracted saints and scholars now attracts techies and Viagra producers. There is a direct correlation between Ireland’s rapid wealth accumulation during the Celtic Tiger years and the measures taken during the recovery from the Great Recession and during the pandemic, with societally devolving trends such as an entire generation locked-out of the housing market forced to pay exorbitant rents. 

Ireland’s Success Story 

Ireland’s shift from an inward-looking, agriculturally dominant, and protectionist economy to an outward, more diversified, and free market one is heralded as a blueprint for how former colonial and small nations can excel economically. 

This growth has often been attributed to various seismic economic policies pursued by successive Irish administrations ushering in what would later be described as the Celtic Tiger. In 1956 Taoiseach John A. Costello defied the conservatism of Ireland’s civil service by passing the Export Profits Tax Relief (EPTPR) bill into law granting tax relief on the profits made by companies through exports. Initially this was granted on 50 per cent of profits and eventually on 100 per cent. In time the Irish State would incentivise manufacturing led growth culminating in a manufacturing tax rate of 10 per cent preceding today’s 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate. In 1947 Co. Clare’s Shannon Airport became the world’s first duty-free airport and in 1959 the Shannon Free Zone became the world’s first free trade zone resulting, in time, with Irish GDP converging with that of its peers, most notably Great Britain. During this period a document entitled Programme for Economic Development authored by the secretary at the Department of Finance T.K Whitaker recommended a number of innovative economic proposals such as increased agricultural exports and the courting of foreign direct investment (FDI). This culminated in the establishment of the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) which helps to attract FDI into the country for which Ireland’s economic model to this day is largely based/dependant on. Ireland’s entry into the European Economic Community (EEC) (1973), the precursor of today’s European Union (EU), and access to the single market (1993) with a common currency (2002) saw a massive market for goods, services and people as well as easy access to cash fuel further wealth accrual. The establishment of Ireland’s very own charter city or special economic zone (SEZ) in the form of the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in 1987 saw the State ride the deregulatory wave ushered in other Anglosphere nations such as Ronald Reagan’s America and Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Big Bang’ in the United Kingdom. 

With the advent of economic liberalisation and expansion Ireland saw rapid economic expansion from the late 1950s onwards, with a small dip during the financial crash of 08 (See Chart 1). Currently, Ireland’s GDP per capita is the second highest in the EU and sixth highest in the world (See Chart 2).

Several economists, most notably Paul Krugman, have disputed Ireland’s official GDP figures due to the prevalence of foreign companies whose activities are primarily based abroad. The ECB chief economist Philip Lane and former central bank governor Philip Lane instead prefer the GNI* metric with others opting for Actual Individual Consumption. For the purposes of this piece, GDP per capita will highlight the gross discrepancy between official GDP and the reality for young people in Ireland today.

Chart 1

Source: Angus Maddison

Chart 2

Source: Worldometer

The Celtic Tiger’s Bite 

In 2003, at the height of the Celtic Tiger, the singer/songwriter Damien Dempsey and renowned artist Sinead O’Connor composed a song about the Celtic Tiger: “Hear the Celtic Tiger roar – I want more,” the chorus goes. 

The two artists warned that the economic exuberance of that period, “brings you good luck or it eats you up for its supper,” adding that, “It’s the tale of the two cities on the shamrock shore.” 

Ireland has never fully recovered from the fallout of the housing bubble burst

That last line in particular has become more resonant with the younger generations who have lived through a period of skyrocketing economic growth but less opportunity to own their own home.

In 1993, over two-thirds of 25-34-year-olds owned their own home, the majority with a mortgage. In 2016, during the recovery from the Great Recession, that figure fell to less than a third (See Chart 3). 

Chart 3

Source: CSO

Indeed, for those slightly older than Holly Cairns, in 2016 60 per cent of those aged 35-44 owned a home compared to over 80 per cent in the early 1990s (See Chart 4). 

Chart 4

Source: CSO

With the prospect of owning a home for Cairns’ generation – millennials – and succeeding ones – Gen Z – dwindling a new term to describe the younger generations has emerged: ‘generation rent.’ 

Why has home ownership plummeted and the proportion of renters skyrocketed?

In the early 90s, a mere 15 per cent of 25-34-year-olds were renting; in 2016, that figure exceeded 50 per cent (See Chart 5). 

Chart 5

Source: CSO

Not only are a significant number of young people renting, Ireland has one of the highest rents in the world relative to the average wage (Chart 6). 

Chart 6

Source: Imovirtual

But why has home ownership plummeted and the proportion of renters skyrocketed? 

This can be traced back to the hangover effects from the meteoric growth observed during the Celtic Tiger period. 

The Commodification of Housing and Aftermath 

During that period a home became much more than a place to live, rather it was viewed as a commodity for banks, local developers and international fanciers. Construction investment boomed as, according to the economist John Fitzgerald, ‘the high expected returns from investment in housing in Ireland had evoked a huge supply response’ (see Chart 8) meaning Ireland was beholden to that investment continuing in order to sustain the economy and, indeed, to provide housing for people. Access to cheap credit from the ECB and international money markets, due to historically low interest rates by Irish standards, helped to facilitate this investment (See Chart 7) with banks such as AIB and Anglo Irish Bank borrowing from wholesale international money markets to lend to local developers. Almost every facet of the Irish economy from employment in construction to tax receipts was beholden to construction investment. It might be hard to believe today but at one point Ireland was building more homes per capita than any nation on earth; the exchequer accrued more than €1 billion annually from Stamp Duty on property

Chart 7

Source: Money Guide Ireland

Chart 8

Chart shows (i) average annual growth rate of building and construction (ii) how much of total investment in the economy was dependent on building and construction. 

Source: CSO

This boom could only continue with rising asset prices in the form of house prices. When house prices eventually fell so too did the house of cards that the Irish housing market and ipso facto the economy so delicately relied on. 

Ireland has never fully recovered from the fallout of the housing bubble burst with the supply of homes virtually collapsing as a result (See Chart 9). As the economist Cormac Lucey recently pointed out: “As a result of that bubble bursting, the Irish construction sector shrank dramatically.

That set the stage… for the current housing crisis. The government stopped investing in building, there were absolutely no apprentices being taken on and most of the tradesmen were going abroad.” 

Indeed, according to Cliff Taylor at the Irish Times, ‘for every seven jobs created between 2011 and 2014, only one house was built’ meaning less than 6,000 homes were built during that period compared to 90,000 in 2006 alone. 

During the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic Ireland was the only country in Europe to halt home construction.

Banks also grew more hesitant to lend money to households and buyers partly due to post-crash macro-prudential rules limiting buyers’ capacity to borrow.

The ECB also imposed strict capital requirements on Irish banks limiting their capacity to lend.

Chart 9

Source: CSO

Indeed, this low supply has not been met with low demand: Ireland’s population has grown by over 40 per cent since 1990 compared to the EU average of only 6 per cent (See Chart 10). As the economist Dan O’Brien pointed out in the Business Post, since 2016 Ireland’s population has grown by 7.6 per cent, “about twice the British rate of growth and more than four times that of France.”

Chart 10

Source: CSO 

House prices and wages have not reached even close to equilibrium: from 1980-2020 house prices rose by over 230 per cent with wages rising by only 100 per cent (See Chart 11). Even in the 1980s when high interest rates and unemployment was the rule, a couple in Dublin only had to sacrifice around 25 per cent of their disposable income, after paying rent for over a year, to raise a 10 per cent deposit; today, the same couple would have to fork over 75 per cent of their after-rent disposable income for the same deposit (See Chart 12). 

Chart 11

Source: RTÉ Investigates 

Chart 12

Source: RTÉ Investigates 


As mentioned, Ireland has one of the highest rents in the developed world relative to national average wages. The average nationwide rent now exceeds €1,000; in Dublin average rents are above €2,000. As with the low supply of houses to buy, a low supply of rental properties has contributed to such extortionate rents. In a nation of just over 5 million people and increasing rapidly Ireland has less than 900 properties available to rent. While the uneven ratio between supply and demand is certainly a contributory factor to high prices, that’s not the full story. A high wage economy for the multinational sector coupled with low supply and continued access to cheap credit for investors following the low interest bonanza pursued by policy makers, including the ECB, following the Great Recession and during the pandemic has contributed to Ireland’s disproportionately high rents. In a recent feature in the Financial Times Jude Webber, the paper’s Dublin correspondent, highlighted the impact of Ireland’s tech economy, which has helped to boost GDP following the crash, on rents: “Ireland has added 24,000 new jobs in the information and communications sector since the first quarter of 2021… the purchasing power of highly paid tech staff has driven up rents in a market where housing supply was already under severe pressure.”

According to IDA Ireland, in 2019 FDI companies paid staff on average €66,000 per annum compared with the national average wage of €46,000 (See Chart 13). These highly paid employees comprise 10 per cent of the entire working population.

Chart 13

Source: IDA

Another factor that has contributed to disproportionately high rents in Ireland is the decision by the Fine Gael Minister for Finance Michael Noonan to delegate the provision of social homes to the private market. 

As the columnist Larissa Nolan pointed out in the Irish Mirror, citing Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin O’ Broin’s book Why Public Housing Is The Answer, before 2014 rents were half what they are today, however, the utilisation of private landlords to provide social housing “meant those who had bought properties to rent out during the Tiger would have a steady stream of tenants and guaranteed rent from the State in RAS and HAP” which costs the taxpayer €1billion per annum. 

According to Nolan, “Rents shot up and more people needed supports – today, more than half of renters need assistance.”

This has also had an impact on the housing market: “The vast majority of punished private renters want to get out of the rent trap and buy – which has caused a rush for houses and driven up the price of property.

“With house prices now at their Celtic Tiger peak, many canny landlords have realised this is the time to sell, further depleting supply.”

Lessons Learned?

Despite the lessons learned during the Celtic Tiger, that the commodification of housing as an asset is highly volatile and prone to a boom-and-bust cycle, this mindset has continued unabated under the veneer of ‘recovery.’

Following the Great Recession Mario Draghi of the ECB infamously promised to do “whatever it takes” to save the Euro currency.

Super Mario embarked on a conquest of preventing a flight of investors from the Eurozone. According to the prophetic economist, who warned of the 08 crash before it happened, Morgan Kelly this involved two policies: cutting interest rates and lending unlimited amounts to sovereigns and banks allowing the Irish state to issue debt at very low rates. Sound familiar?

As such house prices rose to the same extent they did during the Celtic Tiger period. According to Eurostat house prices have risen by 47 per cent since 2010, with The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) estimating that Irish house prices are around 10 per cent overvalued.

Observing the monster he helped create Draghi warned in 2018 that the Irish property market, both residential and commercial, ‘was “overstretched” and vulnerable to “repricing”.‘ The then ECB president sourced the property spike to “the search for yield by international investors” while calling for the macro-prudential rules that were imposed on households following the crash to be applied to non-banks.

Essentially, Draghi admits that while the burden was placed on households following the crash non-households were given a free pass to engage in lucrative investments.

This was observed when in May 2021 the US property investment firm Round Hill Capital bulk purchased most of an 170-home estate in Maynooth, Co Kildare locking out prospective first time buyers in the process. The homes were not only designated for first-time buyers but also, in conjunction with the affordable housing body Tuath, for those on a social housing waiting list. Instead, the estate would be a source of favourable rental yield for the fund. 

The week before the purchase was announced, the same REIT purchased an estate in Hollystown Dublin 15 heralding the return on investment on the company’s website stating this was, “further evidence of the strong appeal of the Irish build-to-rent sector for institutional capital, attracted by its resilient, long-term yields.” 

Having opened an office in Dublin and bragging of its €1billion balance sheet, Round Hill Capital may have been more conspicuous with its investment than others, but they are not the only players in town far from it. 

Figures from Q1 – January, February and March – of last year show that almost two thirds of all new builds in Dublin were bought by non-household purchasers. According to Maynooth University Professor Rory Hearne, “In 2010, investors bought about 10% of property in Ireland. Now they are buying 25% of housing.”

As Aidan Regan of the Business Post pointed out, the low interest environment has “pushed down interest rates to encourage private investment, and as a means to encourage economic growth.

While “Irish households don’t benefit from the ECB’s policiesthe global cheap credit environment has, however, meant that institutional investors have endless access to cash, and endless amounts of money to invest” with many turning to the ‘high yield real estate market.’

The global cheap credit environment has… meant that institutional investors have endless access to cash, and endless amounts of money to invest.

Ireland’s tax incentives, strong population growth and the presence of many high-tech multinationals with a transient workforce that need rental accommodation, Dublin and many other high-growth cities have become a magnet for this money” meaning housing has become once again a “financial asset that generates a high yielding rental income.” (Chart 14).

Chart 14

Source: CSO

As the ECB reverses course under the tenure of Madame Christine Lagarde the repricing that her successor warned about is on the horizon. The prospect of yet another housing bubble bursting is not beyond the realm of possibility as house prices in Ireland begin to fall meaning my generation may live through two housing crashes. As Conor O’ Grady of American Affairs highlighted: “Between 1995 and 2008, construction investment accounted for around 57.5 percent of gross fixed capital formation, while between 2013 and 2017 it accounted for around 39.3 percent.

This would mean that construction investment is about 68 percent as important to Irish economic growth as it was in the previous bubble. Roughly speaking, if construction investment growth is running at around the same rate as it did before the 2008 crisis, then the present bubble should be roughly two-thirds the size of the previous bubble.”

According to Sean Keyes of The Currency, rising rates could knock €20,000 off house prices.

Going Forward 

Ireland’s rapid ascent from the poor boy of Europe to one of the world’s richest and most prosperous nations on earth is to be commended. However, behind the veneer of inflated GDP figures lies an entire generation locked out of the housing market forced to either live at home with their parents or face gruelling rents. It is clear that Ireland’s massive wealth accumulation reflected in GDP has had an inverse relationship with societal evolution, particularly for young people, reflecting the upward surge in young renters and a moribund supply of housing. 

All that glitters is not gold. 

Where does the buck stop in Dublin? 

           Theo McDonald

It was the late British Labour politician Tony Benn who posed four challenging questions to those in positions of authority in an attempt to discern the strength of democracy within power structures. 

“In the course of my life I have developed five little democratic questions,” Benn’s final address to the House of Commons began with. 

“If one meets a powerful person… ask them five questions:

What power have you got?

Where did you get it from?

In whose interests do you exercise it? 

To whom are you accountable?

And how can we get rid of you?” 

Benn concludes with, “If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system.”

While the late left wing rabble rouser was directing his ire at those of a more pernicious nature historically such as Hitler, Stalin, and, in true socialistic fashion, billionaire philanthropists like Bill Gates, the public should begin putting these questions to those sitting atop Dublin’s current governance structures. 

If you were to ask your average Dub who the Mayor of London is they’d probably know it’s Sadiq Khan or at the very least be capable of naming his ‘illustrious’ predecessors such as Ken Livingstone or the proprietor of ‘Boris Bikes’ Alexander Johnson. The same dynamic would occur if you were to ask who the Mayor of New York City is. Even the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, has risen to popular acclaim in recent years for his indefatigable commitment to his city during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Yet if you were to ask the same Dub who the Lord Mayor of Dublin is, a scratch of the head and perhaps a vague guess would occur such is the void in knowledge by Dubliners of their city’s governing structures. 

Of course, the Lord Mayor of Dublin is a ceremonial role currently held by the Green Party’s Caroline Conroy whose powers include bestowment of the title of Honorary Admiral of Dublin Port which includes flinging a spear into the Irish Sea… don’t ask. 

However, the de facto mayor of Dublin is a more discreet and faceless bureaucrat whose dictates rein supreme under the noses of the Dublin citizenry without them even getting a sniff of it. Owen Keegan, one of four Dublin chief executives holds the keys to power in Europe’s largest tech hub. 

The former analyst for Davy Stockbrokers now chief executive of Dublin City Council often emerges from under his desk with brash and politically insensitive remarks to remind people that democracy is virtually dead in Dublin. 

When students highlighted the incapability of accessing student accommodation Keegan retorted to UCD’s Student Union President that the Union should consider entering the property market. 

When addressing the rising number of homeless in Dublin Keegan decried the ubiquity of tents across the city’s thoroughfare. 

And facing a dire accommodation and housing crisis that threatens the city’s very existence as a hub for FDI Keegan promotes a €22 million white water rafting site near Custom House for the Dublin fire brigade. 

But who is this guy? And how did he acquire his power. 

I don’t remember voting for him. 

Do you? 

Luckily, the spirit of Tony Benn is alive in this writer and the five questions put to power shall be given renewed impetus. 

What power has Owen Keegan got? 

With a budget of around €1 billion and close to 6,000 employees the chief executive role brings a whole new meaning to delegation. According to Dublin City Council’s website the chief executive’s raison d’être includes, among other duties, “The day-to-day operations of the Council.” However on issue after issue it seems the buck does not stop with the unelected chief executive, rather with the faceless technocrats at various government agencies. 

“We will be given a name and told we have to approve it.”

Cllr Dermot Lacey

Upset at the dearth in public transport? Transport for Dublin has been delegated to the National Transport Authority. Worried of impending boil water notices? The provision of Dublin’s water services has been delegated to Irish Water, except of course the provision of water rafting. Can’t buy a gaff or even find a place to rent? Planning regulation has been delegated to the Office of the Planning Regulator and the litigious Dublin bourgeois hellbent on maintaining their pristine quaint Georgian surroundings from transient grotty students. 

As Dublin faces spiralling antisocial behaviour, random acts of needless and senseless violence, and an accommodation crisis that according to the managing partner of Grant Thornton Michael McAteer threatens Dublin’s competitive edge, there seems to be little to no accountability

When no one is responsible no one is to blame. 

So where did Keegan get this power from? 

This is even more convoluted and embroiled in secrecy than Pythia’s machinations at the Oracle Of Delphi. 

The Public Appointments Service (PAS) will reach out to the council and Lord Mayor to produce a “key challenges” questionnaire which is finalised by a subgroup within the Corporate Policy Group. Once this back room questionnaire is completed, a vacancy for the position of chief executive is dished out and shortlisted applicants will compete for selection. According to a PAS spokesperson, “Following clearance stage, a recommendation letter is issued to the Cathaoirleach (chairperson/Lord Mayor) in respect of the successful candidate.” When the recruitment process is boiled down to one nominee councillors are expected to vote for said candidate in a process that has about as much legitimacy as voting in the Russian Federation. According to Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey, “We will be given a name and told we have to approve it.” Councillors’ protestations are futile as the appointment will go ahead 30 days later regardless. Independent Cllr Damian O’Farrell abstained from voting for Keegan claiming he knew next to nothing about the then incoming de facto Mayor of Dublin. 

“We (Cllrs) can be bypassed anyway,” he says. 

At this point Tony Benn would be turning in his grave upon observing democracy or the lack thereof in Dublin. And this is a man who had sympathies for Saddam Hussein!

Continuing Benn’s questioning: In whose interests does the chief executive exercise his power and to whom is he accountable? 

Well, not the citizens or elected representatives of Dublin. It seems power resides with the mandarins in the Customs House and various  Local Government directives with Keegan a mere figurehead. 

And the final question Benn proffered to the powers that be that remains but a pipe dream for the 19th ‘best city in the world’: how can we get rid of you? 

You can’t, however, councillors can, but seem hesitant to do so. 

As Dublin faces spiralling antisocial behaviour, random acts of needless and senseless violence, and an accommodation crisis that according to the managing partner of Grant Thornton Michael McAteer threatens Dublin’s competitive edge, there seems to be little to no accountability. 

Last summer I provided a group of American friends of mine a brief tour of Dublin City. When passing Dawson Street they asked about the Mansion House. Explaining the concept of a Lord Mayor – as best I could – and how they’re appointed they seemed puzzled that a major European city had no centralised figurehead where real accountability and power lay. 

When the Greater London Council was abolished by Margaret Thatcher in 1986, for the next 14 years, partly due to Labour intransigence at what they viewed as a Tory power grab, London remained ungovernable beholden to the whims of the councils and government bodies, similar to how Dublin is today. 

When Tony Blair ascended into power his government produced a white paper entitled A Mayor and Assembly for London. In 2000, the Greater London Authority (GLA) was established heralding a system of a directly elected mayoralty by the people of Greater London with accountability bestowed upon a 25 member London Assembly. 

A Dublin Assembly with a directly elected mayor covering all four regions, or, at the very least, Dublin City, would fill the void in responsibility current awash in the capital. It would also beholden that responsibility to the rigours of debate and elections that is at the core of democratic governance. 

This is the case in several European jurisdictions where a decentralised city power structure enables the provision of services such as a public transport system and rigorous policing. 

Revisiting the current role of Lord Mayor should also be included in a reformed governance structure for Dublin. 

The current Lord Mayor structure is anachronistic in a country that claims to be a Republic. This is encapsulated by the Lord Mayor’s chain which is glistened with an engraving of none other than King William III, Prince of Orange, and the Tudor Rose – an affront to an independent Irish Republic. 

The Lord Mayor title should not be relinquished but it’s powers should be solely that of international ambassador for Dublin within the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) as is the case with the Lord Mayor of the City of London. 

The proprietor of the ill fated ‘Bertie Bowl’ Bertie Ahern worries that a directly elected mayor for Dublin would be a “dog’s dinner” and a vanity project by a celebrity wannabe who “wouldn’t give two damns about the city.” 

Teflon Bertie went on, “I like systems that are coherent and straightforward, that you know who the boss is, you know what the committee is, and you know what the agenda is.” 

Sounds like a directly elected mayor to me. 

The motto of Dublin City Council is “Obedientia Civium Urbis Felicitas” meaning “the obedience of the citizens produces a happy city.” 

The obedience of the citizens of Dublin has not produced a happy city. Perhaps a less obedient populace that demands more accountability would lead to a happier, safer and more prosperous city. 

Where does Ireland stand in a multipolar world ?

Theo McDonald

It was the Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin who said, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

A man with similar notions about mother Russia has held true to this maxim in recent months: Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is ushering in a new world order with speed. Small nations must contend amid new burgeoning geo-strategic partnerships that seek to replace the hegemony of existing superpowers.

Since that invasion previous alliances that were gradually forming have grown with zealotry such is the urgency of Russia, and, indeed, other States, after having their dollar reserves sanctioned by the United States. Among these new alliances is the so-called BRICS+ – Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa and others – entente that according to the economist Philip Pilkington will allow “countries outside of Western developed economies to forge alliances on economic issues” with the “launch of a new global reserve currency made up of a basket of BRICS currencies” which “if successful, such a reserve currency would be a direct threat to the currently dominant US dollar.”

BRICS nations make up 30 per cent of global GDP and close to half of the world’s workforce. Indeed, vital energy and other resources among its members makes it a force to be reckoned with. In recent months, several central banks of BRICS+ members have accumulated vast tonnes of gold.

The EU and the Jungle
But it’s not just nations outside the western sphere forging new alliances. Europe has turned further east, as the established western order dissipates amid the burgeoning new world order. The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has had his finger on the pulse of these regional shifting sands for quite some time now. Having caused uproar late last year when he referred to Europe as an idyllic “garden” in which “everything works” the 71-year-old Spaniard eschewed Trumpian notions of wall erecting when he said, “A nice small garden surrounded by high walls in order to prevent the jungle from coming in is not going to be a solution.

“Because the jungle has a strong growth capacity, and the wall will never be high enough in order to protect the garden… Europeans have to be much more engaged with the rest of the world. Otherwise, the rest of the world will invade us, by different ways and means.”

Ireland may be forced to align… closer with Boston than Berlin

Following this controversial statement, Borrell invited the jungle into the garden to participate in an open dialogue in Brussels on what the EU foreign policy chief has described as a ‘messy multipolar’ world.

On December 14th of last year 9/10 ASEAN Nations, with Myanmar excluded due to the military junta, – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – met with representatives of the EU in which everything from peace, prosperity, international law and the rules-based order was lauded as a point of agreement between the two power blocs.

The EU agreed to a €10 billion investment in the region and after a desperate clamour to reach consensus on the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine instead “other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions” appeared in the joint statement, as a gesture to those Asian nations who have abstained when voting on Russia’s invasion at the United Nations. That last omission in particular is revealing: Europe is willing to sacrifice its commitment to the ‘rules-based order’ to ensure it assimilates into the multipolar sphere.

USA and the IRA
Indeed, the EU’s largest economy has eschewed such a rules-based order by aligning with China following President Joe Biden’s continuation of his predecessor’s economic war with the one-party state.

Following the signing of the $52 billion US CHIPS Act – an attempt to counterbalance China’s chipmaking capacity – German chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Xi Jinping in an act of defiance to American protestations. “As China changes, so must our approach to the country,” Scholz said in an op Ed for Politico. For Germany, maintaining close ties with its largest export market takes precedence.

Indeed, the EU-US divide has become even more entrenched due to the IRA – no, not that IRA. The Inflation Reduction Act, signed by President Biden, provides generous subsidies to green manufacturers to locate in the US with Belgian prime minister Alexander de Croo decrying this as an ‘aggressive’ way to encourage such companies to disinvest in Europe and “something to ring the alarm bells over.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recently acknowledged that the current trade barriers between Britain and Northern Ireland, as stipulated in the Northern Ireland protocol, are ‘too harsh’

Amid this deepening western divide where does Ireland stand?

Currently, Ireland is stuck between a rock and hard place: having upended years of genial relations with Britain during the tumultuous post-Brexit period, Ireland has put all its eggs in the EU-US basket. But with EU-US trade tensions at boiling point, Ireland may be forced to align, in reference to Mary Harney’s adage, closer with Boston than Berlin.

However, Ireland has always had the reputation as the ‘best boy’ among the 27 EU bloc. As such, in a trade war with the US Ireland is bound to stay in the EU’s corner as it did during Brexit.

But can Ireland afford this?

The US is currently Ireland’s largest export market with over €50 million in exports in 2020, made up primarily of pharmaceuticals.

With the EU heading for a deepening recession, the US is enriching itself by filling the energy void left by the sanctions imposed on Russia. Figures estimate a European recession will eclipse a US one meaning the latter is a more reliable trading partner in the coming years.

Anglo-Irish Reset
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recently acknowledged that the current trade barriers between Britain and Northern Ireland, as stipulated in the Northern Ireland protocol, are ‘too harsh’, a shift from the tough stance he took when he warned of the risk of border skirmishes returning to the island of Ireland.

Perhaps this is a tacit acknowledgement of the reliance Ireland has on the U.K. that was sorely lacking in the 2016-19 period.

Ireland’s biggest importer is the U.K. with imports of €20 billion reported in official figures in 2020. Recent figures from Bord Bia reveal that Britain remains the single largest country for Irish exports of food with exports valued at over €5 billion last year, an increase of 20 per cent year on year.

Ireland’s reliance on its nearest neighbour is even more pronounced in the energy and defensive realm. Currently, gas generates half of the State’s electricity with that energy source almost entirely reliant on imports from Britain via Norway. With the impending energy crisis set to worsen next winter Ireland must ensure that gas imports from the Moffat pipeline that connects Ireland with Scotland continue. Indeed, having decided to eschew even a veneer of neutrality and engage in a war of words with Russia over its savage invasion of Ukraine, Ireland is potentially in the firing line of Russia’s cyber and military wrath. As such, the State must ensure its skies, which have previously fallen afoul of Russian air raids, remain secure with Britain the only means of achieving that aim. Following the St Petersburg-linked HSE cyber attack, it’s clear that Ireland’s cyber defensive capabilities are sorely lacking with international assistance desperately needed until reforms are met.

The last time the world experienced such upheaval and a shift in global alliances was during the 1970s oil crisis following Egypt and Syria’s instigation of the Yom Kippur war. Then it was the Arab states, reminiscent of the ascending BRICS+ alliance, that pooled their source of leverage – oil – forming the Organisation of the Petroleum Export Countries (OPEC) seeing the price of oil quadruple essentially upending Ireland’s buoyant economic boon.

At that time Ireland acted decisively in securing sufficient domestic reserves amid high energy prices. In 1971 oil was discovered off the coast of Kinsale with Cork earning the title of “oil town.”

During the same period plans by the ESB to construct a nuclear power plant in Carnsore Point, Wexford were shelved after protestors successfully derailed attempts to reduce Ireland’s carbon-intensive energy dependency because nuclear is bad, man.

During this crisis, there is no real urgency to think outside the box: no plan to tap into domestic energy potential or to secure a solidarity agreement with post-Brexit Britain to ensure continued gas imports.

The multipolar world is coming if it isn’t here already.

Is Ireland paying attention?

Is the sun setting on Ireland’s tech economy? 

Theo McDonald

Elon Musk has delivered a hammer blow to a central pillar of the tech economy. The reverberations from the Tesla CEO’s acquisition of Twitter has led to “carnage” for its employees from Silicon Valley’s San Francisco Bay Area to Cumberland Street in Dublin.

Upon seizing the Silicon Valley behemoth for $54.20 per share, ‘the Chief Twit’ made clear his intention to sack the expendable in a process of elimination of the celebrity apprentice kind: Half of its 7,500 staff worldwide are at risk of redundancy by tweet and whim. 

As the tremors from the elongated wrangling between Musk and Twitter Executives over the $44billion – €44billion, parity huh – acquisition were felt, Twitter’s staff in Dublin grew livid expressing their indignation to the media. “A complete shitshow,” one unnamed employee told the Irish Times, adding that there was a “genuine level of trauma among the workforce by the manner in which this is being handled.” 

Reports indicate that Twitter failed to inform the Department of Enterprise of the mass layoffs as is required by law. Employees were informed of their redundancy with an email from their private accounts; those that continued receiving emails from their official work accounts meant their jobs were safe. 

“A complete shitshow”

The South African billionaire wants to shake things up at the company. “There seem to be 10 people ‘managing’ for every one person coding,” Musk tweeted following the deal in a not-so-subtle hint at what his intentions are for the company. 

Following the news of potential mass layoffs at Twitter, Ireland’s class activists decried the move invoking the spirit of 1913. The Cork North-Central TD Mick Barry tweeted: “Elon Musk’s jobs massacre and lockout show capitalism’s true face. 

“Whether it’s William Martin Murphy in 1913 or a tech billionaire today profit is king under this system and workers will be treated like dirt if it suits them. Organise!” 

For context, in 1913 men in Dublin worked seventy hours a week for only fourteen shillings while women worked on average ninety hours a week earning around six or seven shillings. In 2021, Twitter employees earn over €60,000 per annum working 10 hours per week, thus proving Barry’s grasp on identifying who today’s working classes are is tenuous. 

The new Twitter CEO’s pet peeve and what potentially derailed and ultimately delayed the acquisition is the social media site’s perennial ‘bots’ that have plagued the platform since its inception. 

The blue check mark regime, a caste system afforded to Twitter’s best and brightest, will now be granted to those who pay a monthly or annual fee, adding a layer of security to achieve Musk’s goal of ‘destroying the bots.’ Thinking of sending an anonymised menacing tweet to that politician or egotistical businessman – anyone in mind? – you hate? Think again. 

Times are changing for the tech world. The second industrial revolution has been flipped upside down. 

However, the tech economy was set on a collision course with the market even before Elon’s takeover of Twitter. Collision course? Apologies, I meant to say Collison course. 

The day before Twitter employees were informed of their future at the company, the e-commerce multinational Stripe, founded by the Tipperary-born and Limerick-bred Collison brothers, announced it was laying off 14 per cent of its 8,000 staff worldwide. The fate of its 600 working staff in Dublin is unclear. 

A move unrelated to Musk’s machinations is part of a growing trend of tech companies scaling back operations as the global economy recovers from the pandemic and low-interest bonanza. 

“From Pretoria, South Africa to Dromineer, Tipperary creative and unique minds have accelerated our reliance on technology as a core aspect of our productive lives”

Inflation, energy costs and rising interest rates were among the reasons the once burgeoning company gave for the cutbacks. 

Another mystifying CEO wanting to shake things up, Mark Zuckerberg recently announced Meta’s commitment to specific performance-enhancing targets in order to weed out those who “shouldn’t be here.” Based on the renamed company’s share price in recent months perhaps that shakeup should start at the top. Meta, who employ 6,000 people in Ireland, is set to engage in mass firings of the kind seen at Twitter. 

The tech economy has been propelled by figures the world over. From Pretoria, South Africa to Dromineer, Tipperary creative and unique minds have accelerated our reliance on technology as a core aspect of our productive lives. 

Without technology, most of our key functions would disappear overnight. 

This reliance accelerated during the pandemic with hybrid working changing how entire industries operate. 

Buoyed by this hastened dependence on technology the tech giants held true to the maxim of never allowing a good crisis go to waste. 

Stripe’s core business model – e-commerce – grew with zealotry during the pandemic. According to the U.S Census Bureau, e-commerce sales increased by 43% in 2020 during the first year of the pandemic, rising from $571.2 billion in 2019 to $815.4 billion in 2020. 

Alas, in their haste to adapt to what was portrayed as the new normal Stripe and companies like it failed to adhere to a similar pithy statement, ‘steady as she goes.’ 

Stripe admitted as much in their statement announcing the cutbacks: “Buoyed by the success we’re seeing in some of our new product areas, we allowed coordination costs to grow and operational inefficiencies to seep in.” 

Another company recovering from the post-pandemic hangover is Intel. 

Intel has been the backbone of Ireland’s tech-driven economy for decades. Its relationship with the Emerald Isle dates as far back as the late 1980s. Economic liberalisation, tax incentives, and indigenous and foreign companies acting in lockstep saw Intel utilise Ireland as a hub for the highly lucrative chipmaking industry. At the close of the 1990s, Ireland was the largest exporter of computer software in the world. 

During the pandemic, semiconductor demand grew immeasurably. The hybrid economy was reliant on technologies that in turn were dependent on the transformational silicon tools. This pandemic-driven demand came at a volatile time for supply chains thus constraining equilibrium. 

However, as supply chains stabilised following the pandemic providers of semiconductors, including Intel, realised, like Stripe, that such demand was largely arbitrary and, unlike inflation, transitory. PC demand has slumped since countries have opened their economies, a development Intel had not anticipated having behaved as though demand for such products would continue to rise. Increased demand with limited supply was the rule during the pandemic. That has now been turned on its face with supply exceeding demand for the manufacturer’s engines. 

The woes engulfing Intel have forced the firm to announce cuts of $10billion less than a year since it announced a €12billion investment in a new manufacturing plant in Ireland. Intel employs more than 5,000 staff in Ireland. Acting ahead of the inevitable winter of despair, the company announced a manufacturing suspension over Christmas. Earlier this year the semiconductor giant scuppered plans to build two  factories in the State instead locating in Magdeburg, Germany. 

To make matters worse the United States have embraced protectionism in this industry, adding increased volatility to the market. The Biden Administration’s $280billion Chips Act was announced last summer amid growing tensions between Beijing and Washington over supremacy in the global chips industry. Space was the battleground of the last Cold War; chip technology has emerged as central during the latest Cold War. 

The act places export controls on chip making as China’s neighbour and separatist foe Taiwan dominates the industry: the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) currently operates the world’s largest dedicated semiconductor plant or foundry accounting for about 60 per cent of all the microchips produced globally; that figure is over 90 per cent for advanced semiconductors. 

Knowing full well the risks of relying on a volatile region for such vital resources, the European Commission intends to introduce its own Chips Act by the end of the year to protect European chipmaking. How effective the bloc is at implementing protective measures is yet to be seen. 

To make matters worse Ireland’s much-vaunted yet internationally decried low corporate tax regime is at risk of a steep shortfall as the tech economy lags. At present 10 companies, including Intel and Apple, provide well over half of Ireland’s €15.4billion – based on last year’s receipt – corporate tax intake; 10 per cent of Ireland’s entire tax revenue comes from just 10 US companies. Recent moves by larger nations to clamp down on smaller nations’ ability to climb up the global economic ladder could result in a shortfall of €22billion for the exchequer in the not-too-distant future. Foreboding is also exuded in Budapest and Luxembourg. 

“Intel has been the backbone of Ireland’s tech-driven economy for decades.”

As tech companies downgrade and their employees grow redundant, this causes strains not just in corporate but income tax intake as well. The OECD appraises Ireland’s income tax regime as “progressive” reliant on the few, not the many: the top 1 per cent of workers pay 22 per cent of income taxes; the top 20 per cent pay 77 per cent of income taxes. Department of Finance officials recently warned that reduced headcount at major tech companies could constrain this tax take. 

Despite the gloomy assessment for the post pandemic tech economy, Ireland’s current economic model could be in for a correction rather than a downturn. 

As several leading academics have pointed out, Ireland’s current economic model is largely a shell of its former self. 

US researcher Peter Ryan has noted Ireland’s current tech sector is “largely a sham” creating jobs in low-skilled, non-STEM activities such as call centres and other services to the point that manufacturing accounts for a mere 13 per cent of the Irish labour force down from 20 per cent in 1998 while services account for a whopping 77 per cent of domestic labour. 

Indeed, many of these companies simply use Ireland as a way to circumvent paying tax in other jurisdictions coined “leprechaun economics” by the US economist Paul Krugman. 

Is this the end of Ireland’s modern economy or just a recognition that there was never any pot of gold at the end of the rainbow all along? 

Time will tell. 

O’Connell Street – No Go Zone? 

Theo McDonald

The dilapidated state of the capital city highlights the need to reinforce old policing standards. 

RTÉ Prime Time’s investigative series into Ireland’s anarchic metropolis makes for harrowing watching. Business owners, street traders, and passers-by alike describe a street indistinguishable from Caracas or Rio de Janeiro. 

“There is always trouble,” said Paul Stanley who has continued a five-generation-long family tradition of selling bouquets under the Spire. Stanley expressed incredulity about whether a sixth generation would or could continue that tradition. 

“The main issues are loitering, vagrancy, and begging. They go unabated on the street,” said Jeweller Noel Kelly. 

The national broadcaster’s crew were even offered a ‘shot’ of crack cocaine with the addict behaving as nonchalantly on the open street as though it were an underground rave. 

“It’s a street I’m absolutely ashamed of as an Irish person.”


This is the reality facing one of the richest countries in the world. Third-worldism on our doorsteps. The first point of entry for tourists getting a shuttle bus from Dublin airport. Our ‘Champs-Élysées’, our Times Square. The place that birthed the first mass trade union movement and the Irish Republic, overlooked by the Catholic Emancipator whose namesake remains entrenched on a street in a most decrepit state. 

As the florist elucidated on the programme, O’Connell Street is Dublin’s forgotten street. TDs no longer walk on the central Dublin boulevard but instead engage in “drive-by shootings.”

Count this writer among this gang of drive-by shooters. 

On my way to college every day I pass by O’Connell Street, with the Dublin Bus being my vehicle of choice for my drive-by melee. A few weeks ago I witnessed what business owners and passers-by have to endure daily. Three staunch men with two uncontrollable bulldogs walked through the streets as though they were on prison patrol. A young lad approaches them; drugs and cash are exchanged. One of the dogs leaps at a couple passing by; when the distraught pair express their shock and dismay the men hurl abuse at them. Being on a bus I couldn’t quite make out what was said but I can guarantee you it wasn’t an apology. 

What was missing amid this display of machismo and open drug dealing? Gardaí. Not a single one of them was out patrolling. 

And it’s not just me saying this. Each business owner and community representative RTÉ interviewed on their Tuesday night special expressed similar anxieties about the lack of police presence. 

“What we see is the lack of policing on the street.” “There are never any police around,” were among the reality-biting quotes. 

The dearth of police on the beat has consigned O’Connell Street to no-go status. 

The place that birthed the first mass trade union movement and the Irish Republic, overlooked by the Catholic Emancipator whose namesake remains entrenched on a street in a most decrepit state. 

Feeble attempts by the Minister for Justice to construct a Garda station, which isn’t a Garda station but a tourist office, on O’Connell Street misses the point entirely. It is irrelevant how many resources you have but rather how you use those resources that matter. 

The State can herald and flaunt increasing Garda numbers all they want, but unless members of the force are proactive instead of reactive such burgeoning figures are about as pointless as a school brandishing a record number of pupils who perform woefully in examinations. 

The modus operandi of the Gardaí Siochana has shifted rapidly in recent years. Almost no public consultation or input was had. Overnight the Gardaí made the fateful decision to respond to crime instead of preventing crime. 

Community policing used to be at the heart of law enforcement in Ireland. Amid an increasing disconnect between the citizenry and law enforcement, community policing was introduced in November 1987 initially as a rural scheme it was extended to cover most urban areas with the objective to ‘prevent crime and anti-social behaviour, and to reduce the fear of crime.’

Former Garda Trevor Laffan speaking to in 2016 decried the institutional and political ineptitude that essentially abolished this form of policing: “It (community policing) has been deliberately and knowingly deconstructed by a combination of an incompetent leadership and political interference. 

“Anyone who claims otherwise is either misinformed or is being economical with the truth.” 

The force admitted as such in 2015 stating, “..there are concerns about the resourcing levels currently deployed to community policing duties. 

“The [Garda] Inspectorate found significant reductions in the number of members assigned to community policing and some divisions have no dedicated community policing units.” 

While Laffan cites a number of policy mediations as the reason for this, at its core is an attempt to ‘modernise’ policing to the standards of our nearest neighbour to the east. 

Now, it would be easy to blame the Brits for the sickly state of Irish law enforcement, however, this shift is entirely the fault of Irish policymakers. 

As such, the Garda administrative regions have reduced from six to just four, and 19 super divisions are set to replace the 28 that existed prior. The centralisation of policing has spelt disaster for combating crime generally and rural crime in particular, continuing to utterly emasculate the concept of community policing that has served the Irish people well since its inception. 

In spite of the attempts to ‘modernise’ the Gardaí, crime in Ireland has been on a downward trajectory since 2017. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom saw a 1.18 per cent increase in crime last year. Indeed, British police have a measly 7 per cent success rate of reported crime. 


Why on earth the Gardaí want to follow this model is beyond belief. 

Instead of having a grownup, public discussion on how policing can work for everyone, we are arguing over words. 

Wexford TD Paul Kehoe caused ructions among what he described as the ‘PC brigade’ in the Dáil recently when he called out those who make life unbearable for people in the capital city: “It’s a street I’m absolutely ashamed of as an Irish person.  

“It is full of druggies, crime, anti-social behaviour, robberies, takeaways, alcohol, drug abuse.” 

Of course, this is how most people would describe the once bustling thoroughfare upon daring to pass by. Yet, this was too much for Dublin TD Paul Murphy who condemned Kehoe for his alleged “dehumanising” and “stigmatising” language referring to his use of the word ‘druggies.’

An unnamed serving member of the Gardaí who spoke with Today FM this week stated categorically that the vast majority of thefts, burglaries and robberies within O’Connell Street are committed by those feeding their drug addiction. 

Hazel Chu, the former Lord Mayor of Dublin, who never fails to inject herself into the latest political firestorm, took offence not at the use of the word ‘druggies’ but rather at the reference to takeaways. “As someone who grew up in a takeaway, there’s nothing wrong with them,” she said. 

Instead of discussing ways to improve life in Dublin City the former Lord Mayor of that city wants public representatives to be more mindful of the feelings of takeaway dishes. 

Apart from the sanctimonious pearl-clutching certain people in the political class master in, some politicians offered ludicrous suggestions such as making it easier for drug addicts to coalesce in the city. The suspended Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan suggested implementing injection centres on O’Connell Street. While Cleary’s remains unbuilt and several businesses shuttered due to lockdowns the public can be rest assured that injection facilities are on the way. How exactly this will alleviate the problems facing O’Connell Street is unclear. Injection facilities aren’t hostels. The individuals who use them will continue to roam the street regardless of whether they find a ‘safe’ way to feed their drug usage. 

The only solution to the lawlessness in our small towns and city streets is more visible, active and decentralised policing. Discussions surrounding language and social stigmas attached to certain behaviours are a distraction and serve the interests of no one except small-minded ideologues. 

Will another Irish Catholic save the world? 

      Theo McDonald

The leader of the world’s largest superpower warned of nuclear war last week. 

“We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” President Joe Biden said in one of the most accurate assessments posited thus far by a world leader of where the current crisis is headed.

In a media landscape where a never-ending barrage of uninterrupted content ensues, groundbreaking developments often get lost and deemed unimportant, evidenced by the fact that this extraordinary admission from President Biden has gone largely unnoticed by the wider public. 

The same chest thumping rhetoric deployed at the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has remained unchanged at this point in the increasingly escalatory conflict. 

Perhaps a collective recognition of the mental incapabilities of the U.S commander in chief, from his doddering rantings to his seeming inability to exit a stage, has consigned the proprietor to the highest office in the world to mere Grandad Simpson screaming at a cloud status – to be laughed at and ridiculed but not taken seriously. 

But Biden is right. The world has never faced the prospect of annihilation quite like this before. 

And if you think the latte sipping westerners who proudly extol the virtues of Zelensky and chant Slava Ukraini morning, noon and night will remain unscathed think again. 

The Irish State, who have adopted a policy of having cake and eating it during this conflict: in their constant condemnations of Putin without providing even a modicum of military support to the embattled region, have begun coordinating contingency plans in the event of a nuclear strike. 

Last week, The Emergency Coordination Centre in Dublin held an exercise in tandem with several state agencies to prepare for a nuclear strike. 

Should that day come, which the Department of Environment has said is “highly improbable”, A National Emergency Coordination Group would be set up and chaired by… Minister Eamon Ryan. 

Yes, place your salad on windowsills, Eamon Ryan. 

In the event of nuclear “armageddon” you and your families’ lives will be in the hands of a man who cannot retain consciousness during parliamentary proceedings. 

“A war today or tomorrow, if it led to nuclear war, would not be like any war in history.” 

“Get In – Stay In – Tune In” is the mantra the citizenry will be asked to abide by in case of a nuclear strike, eerily similar to “Wear a mask, Clean your hands, and Keep a safe distance”, only this time your chance of death is much higher. 

The most westerly European nation is taking the threat of an easternmost bomb seriously such is the perilous state all nations in the Northern Hemisphere face if push comes to shove in a battle between nuclear armed powers. 

The prospect of nuclear war is not a mere escalation or development. It is a matter of life and death. 

In a conflict that resulted from Britain’s partitioning of the region, the India and Pakistan – two nuclear armed powers – quarrel has allowed analysts to calculate how tenuous our existence is in a world of nuclear weapons. 

In the event one or the other nuclear armed power were to push the carmine button, analysts have determined that over a billion people would die immediately, taking all conjoining northernly hemispheric agricultural produce with them, destroying any hope for survivors to fend for themselves. Those who do manage to survive would find themselves in a world where cannibalism makes a mighty comeback. 

That’s between India and Pakistan – two militarily capable but relatively benign actors on the broader world stage. Terrifyingly, Russia and America hold much more influence and nuclear arsenals between them. 

Theoretically, this prospect is unnerving; empirically, we know what’s at stake. 

In May 1945, with the Japanese-US conflict in a seemingly never-ending stalemate, in large part due to Japanese resilience and determination – some of them continued fighting even after their government surrendered – the U.S dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. 70,000 died instantly. Some survivors never recovered. The radioactive impact pervaded long after the strike. 

The Manhattan Project proved how capable humans are at destroying and annihilating their fellow beings. 

That was 76 years ago, when most people were still using letters to communicate with each other. Now, weaponry has advanced to such a degree that mutual destruction, from Ukraine and beyond, is guaranteed. 

Things are only escalating in this years long conflict between Ukraine and Russia. 

In recent weeks both sides have targeted civilians in the vain hope of crippling each other’s capabilities. Ukraine, and by extension the western powers aiding them, has targeted key Crimean infrastructure that has come to define Russia’s revanchism in that region, and Russia has  targeted cities and towns in western Ukraine during rush hour. 

Both sides have accused each other of terrorism. And in order to defeat terrorism all bets are off, generally speaking. 

With Russia having declared the entire Donbas region, Zaporizhzhia and several other regions part of Russian territory, any military moves within these yet to be determined border zones could be interpreted as an attack on Russian soil with Russia retaliating in part, as the response to the Crimean Kerch Bridge attack demonstrates. 

This is the road to “armageddon.”

Yet, recent calls by Zelensky, that he later backtracked, calling for strikes on Russian soil; the refusal of France and Germany to commit to and call for the assertion of the Minsk II accords; and the evident dearth of any real mediatory deescalation makes one wonder whether the international community prefers, in reference to a Churchillian quotation, “war war” as opposed to “jaw jaw.” 

So will Joe Biden follow on from his astute observation or warning and channel his inner Catholic yearning for peace and save the world from nuclear “armageddon.” 

It wouldn’t be the first time an Irish Catholic Commander in Chief cometh the hour. 

On July 26, 1963 President John F. Kennedy disrupted the jovial mood the mid summer month brings to warn America and the world of nuclear war. 

The President informed audiences of a Soviet buildup of nuclear capabilities in Cuba – a mere 780km from the US mainland. 

Even if peace is futile, at least give it a try. 

The Cuban Revolution would revolutionise diplomacy.  

“In an age when both sides have come to possess enough nuclear power to destroy the human race several times over, the world of communism and the world of free choice have been caught up in a vicious circle of conflicting ideology and interest,” he began with. 

Kennedy, in a phrase similar in tone and effect to his successor today, said, “A war today or tomorrow, if it led to nuclear war, would not be like any war in history.” 

The President and his brother Robert engaged in a series of diplomatic manoeuvres to avert the crisis to the chagrin of his military advisors and generals. 

Kennedy eschewed group think by ignoring his jingoistic generals’ advice, and instead engaged in a policy of peace through strength: by deploying a naval blockade around Cuba. 

You can see why he was so determined to avoid nuclear carnage; Kennedy had seen war. 

Having served in the navy during World War Two, he knew the wanton destruction and human fragility in the face of war. 

When a Japanese destroyer struck the American PT boat he served in, No 109, Kennedy displayed heroism on a scale that subsequently earned him a Marine Corps Medal and a Purple Heart. The morning following the fusillade, Kennedy and the 11 surviving crew members, 13 perished, decided, at his direction, to swim ashore to an nearby island knowing the futility of waiting for help. An ailing member of the crew, having not recovered from the initial strike, quickly saw his fate reliant on Kennedy’s gnashes. The Navy Lieutenant bit onto the member’s life jacket and dragged his body across sea for four hours.

Kennedy’s back problems and leadership skills remained intact from that day forward. 

The Soviet-US compromise saw America pledge not to invade Cuba as well as the removal of nuclear weaponry in Turkey. 

While the victory was pyrrhic for the joint chiefs of staff, the world avoided nuclear war for now. The Cold War would test leaders’ resolve a decade later. 

Biden’s sentimentality to human affairs is noticeable when speaking of the death of his son Beau, who served in Iraq, and the tragedy involving his first wife Neilia and their daughter Naomi who both died in a car crash en route to picking up a Christmas tree in Delaware in 1972. 

How world leaders respond to the recent war of words between Putin and the west on the nuclear front will test their ability and determination to save humanity itself. 

While we toil and moil to save ourselves from the impact of climate change, the prospect of nuclear war is ever more closer and much more severe. 

Even if peace is futile, at least give it a try. 

I end with these immortal words from the 35th President of America: 

“For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

Steven Baker – a breath of fresh air 

When ERG Steve Baker was appointed U.K. Minister of State for Northern Ireland a collective gulp must have emitted from those in Iveagh House still reeling from the ascension to No 10 Downing Street of the proprietor of the Northern Ireland Bill, Liz Truss. 

For the hard Brexit that mainland Britain went with was the brainchild of Baker’s ERG chums such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and others. 

Baker and Truss would gang up on the Republic and stand up for Northern Ireland like two ravenous dogs. 

However, such foreboding was sorely ill-founded, as recent events prove. 

I am sorry Ireland’, Minister Baker said at the Tory Party conference earlier this month. Sorry for what you may ask? The famine? Collusion with Loyalist terrorists? Liz Truss referring to Micheál Martin as the teesock? 

No, Baker apologised for not respecting Ireland’s “legitimate interests” during the tense post-Brexit negotiations with the European Union.  

This was music to the ears of Dublin and Brussels bureaucrats having just recovered from David Frost’s obduracy. 

One group who did not take too kindly to the hard Brexiteer minister’s sentiments was the Unionists. The bin preacher Jamie Bryson scolded the newly appointed minister on Twitter for his alleged “appeasement”, warning: “He has demonstrated why this Government can not be trusted, and made it impossible for the DUP to even consider trying to persuade unionism/loyalism to take any step toward restoring power sharing.”

Reminder: Bryson is not, has never been and will never be an elected representative in the six counties.

He even condemned Baker for the crime of taking a selfie with Ministers Helen McEntee and Simon Coveney by retweeting a comment stipulating, “Smiling and idiotic selfies whilst negotiating about our sovereignty.

Pathetic, but not surprising.” 


In response to these taunts, Baker has shown an indefatigability to work with his Irish counterparts to ensure the past is not repeated. 

He has also shown a willingness to deploy trolling on a scale matched only to that of Donald Trump. Two days ago he tweeted his copy of a book by Dale Carnegie titled, How to win friends and influence people, in a subtle jibe to his loyalist detractors. 

Shortly after his appointment, this writer bumped into Mr Baker whilst covering the Queen’s cortège parade in London last month. I found him to be an affable individual who discussed with me his recent conversations with Minister Coveney and reiterated his commitment to “the peace.” 

Baker is a breath of fresh air. His continuance of official Britain’s policy of ignoring Irish Loyalism’s moronic taunts shows a diplomat keen on ensuring a return to amicable Anglo-Irish relations. 

We must never forget the breadth and depth of the British-Irish relationship. 

It is about trade, finance, investment, energy, agriculture and food. 

Equally, it is about culture and arts, geography and history, but most importantly, it is about enduring personal connections and family relationships.”

The Second Elizabethan Era: Britain’s Final Act 

Theo McDonald

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. 

“The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.” These were the observations of British writer C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed

That same gnawing sense of grief was palpable upon entering Hyde Park in London last week, as the late Queen’s coffin was presented to public observers on its way to Westminster Cathedral. 

Scores of visibly distraught people descended onto the carefully placed barriers, separating ordinary citizens from the marchers, all hoping to view the soon to be paraded casket of Queen Elizabeth II. 

“Where the hell are we supposed to go,” I heard one irate man vociferate to a security guard. A collective sense of immense grief was omnipresent. I felt as though I was in the middle of a giant wake: Flowers placed upon trees and colonnades, on walls, in people’s hands and traffic lampposts encapsulated such sorrow.  


The futility of waiting in Hyde Park to view the cortège hit me after several security guards ordered I and several others in various directions, to the point we were going around in circles. I decided to abscond from the park and go towards the monarch’s reigning villa, Buckingham Palace. 

The queue was like something out of a packed theme park with emotions running about as high as that of children desperately waiting to emit their tender-aged adrenaline on a rollercoaster. 


Upon exiting the queue outside the palace, I was immediately bombarded with mourners placing letters and flowers under trees at Green Park. I noticed one elderly lady place a bouquet accompanied by a note under one such tree. Sparking up a conversation with her, she articulated the eternal effect Elizabeth had on her subjects. “She’s devoted her life to us,” Mary said with the affection one might express for a deceased relative. 

Beating me to the punch she said: “She’s like a grandmother. 

“All my life she’s been in my life. 

“I should start crying.” 

Mary is from Eastbourne, just off the coast of England. She felt she had to come all the way to London to “pay homage to her.”  

I asked her to explain to those who don’t live in monarchies and find the concept of one outdated why people in Britain feel such a closeness for someone with whom they don’t even know personally: “Well, you have somebody like that in your life all the time. There’s somebody there, and you read about her life and all the things that she does, it’s just that feeling… that… belonging to somebody else.” 

She mentioned how she travelled a similar distance when Princess Diana tragically passed away but noted that this time was different. 

The death of Queen Elizabeth II whilst not shocking given the inevitable eventuality of such a moment has nonetheless struck at the core of Britain’s sense of nationhood. Elizabeth Windsor encapsulated the very essence of whatever it was that made Britain stand out amongst her peers globally: Having served during World War Two, by mere accident of birth and due to the foibles of her late Uncle King Edward VIII, Lizzy, like Britain during both wars, was forced by a sense of duty to devote her life to the service of others whether that service be long or short, the former being the answer to that promise she made on her 21st birthday. 

All ‘Great Britain’ has now are vague ritualistic shibboleths, just without even a veneer of greatness left. 

Following her selfless service during the war, Elizabeth was again asked to place herself above the parapet and defy navel-gazing in entering Buckingham Palace as the reigning monarch. 

Queen Elizabeth II oversaw the collapse of Britain’s decaying world hegemony. Having deluded themselves into believing they and they alone ‘won the war’, Britain acquiesced to a new post-war power on the world stage. This geopolitical reality proved itself five years into her reign when in 1956 a triumvirate of Britain, Israel and France attempted to stop Egyptian General Abdel Nasser in his tracks from seizing the British trading port in the Suez Canal along the Red Sea, home to vast oil reserves. U.S recalcitrance to this scheme, that would’ve protected the security of a vital British trading route, exemplified to the world who was in charge post-war. Having lost any semblance of economic might following the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 where the dollar was pegged as the world’s reserve currency, America’s stranglehold on sterling reserves acted as a sort of gun to the head of any sense Britain may have had in believing they were still an important player globally: simply put, if you do this we’ll sell these reserves onto the foreign exchange markets and devalue your currency.

This was the dynamic at play at the beginning of Britain’s second Elizabethan era. Both world wars changed Britain utterly; the reigning monarch was all Britain had post-war; Britons clung to her as the remaining vestige of its pre-war economic and military superiority and dominance. 

Now that she’s gone, that spirit has gone with her. 

That’s how Mick Burn described it to me in the crowd awaiting the Queen’s casket. Burn used to work for the car servicing and repair company Kwik Fit – a once global manufacturing company but now confined to the greater United Kingdom. He compared the loss of the Queen to that of his wife some years ago: “Shortly after my wife died, I did a programme to refurbish all their [Kwik Fit’s] sites; they needed a new look, new training.” 


Burn trained apprentices on site for the better part of 25 years. He laments that his devotion to such tireless and effortless work following his better halve’s death was part of the healing process. “That’s what the country is now going through,” he says to me. He also mentions that that sense of service is what Queen Elizabeth II will be remembered for: “that’s what she did,” he adds. 

Burn says that King Charles III’s moral compass is “not as strong as hers.” 

  • The new monarch is noted to have had an affair with the Duchess the Cornwall whilst wedded to the late Princess of Wales; he is also reported to have played polo less than an hour after the birth of his son Harry – something most new fathers wouldn’t even dream of doing.

Our conversation ended with a cacophony of trumpets and marching bands silencing the chattering mass of patient onlookers. Phones emerged to capture this historic moment. 

Looking upon the slow-moving legion of carefully choreographed bandsmen and guards I felt I was witnessing the apotheosis of Britain’s national cohesion.  

That cohesion and willingness to put nation ahead of comfort presented itself further in real time when I witnessed thousands of people waiting outside Westminster Cathedral to bid a final farewell to Britain’s mother. 

The queue stretched as far back as the London Eye – on the other side of the River Thames. The international media, from France 24 to the Associated Press, amassed alongside the stretched mourners, attempting to make sense to viewers back home how traumatic Briton’s sense of loss truly was. 

I decided to add to this willingness to understand by striking up yet another conversation with a subject to the late Majesty. 

Meet Luke from Jamaica. He had just entered the queue with his yellow wristband and explained to me how the ‘Elizabeth effect’ stretched way beyond an Island in Western Europe to as far away as the Caribbean. 

“That cohesion and willingness to put nation ahead of comfort presented itself further in real time when I witnessed thousands of people waiting outside Westminster Cathedral to bid a final farewell to Britain’s mother.”

“The Queen meant quite a lot to me, my family… especially my grandparents,” he said. 

Luke’s maternal family are Jamaican whilst his paternal side are English. 

He explains how his Jamaican relatives met the Queen on one occasion having been assigned to the security detail for her trip there: “They have fond memories of that,” he says. 

Luke’s Jamaican friends saw the royal family as quintessential to Britain and Britishness as he outlined with a lighthearted tale: “Whenever I went to visit as a child they would almost expect me to dress and speak like the royal family.” 

The admiration for the Queen is not confined to his Commonwealth inhabited friends and family: “My grandparents on my English side, they have stories about how they would go to Buckingham Palace every Sunday,” I interjected with incredulity, he clarified with “every second Sunday”, “and watch the guards,” he describes almost like a religious observer who might attend Mass every Sunday. 

“They’ve loads of photographs with the actual Queen.

“They’re no longer here, but for me to be here, to be able to represent them in a way means a lot to me.” 

I asked him to explain the modern admiration for monarchy to a global audience, perhaps sympathetic but slightly befuddled by the concept: “The monarchy is basically… like a guidebook of like the way that we should do things.”

Luke describes education as key to instilling a sense of pride in nationhood all wrapped up in a adulatory attachment to the royal family: “When I was in school we use to actually have to sing the national anthem; and then we’d also have things where our teacher would use words that only the royal family would actually use.” When probed on what those words were he couldn’t recall, but the feeling of national pride was ever-present still. 

“Flowers placed upon trees and colonnades, on walls, in people’s hands and, hilariously, on traffic lampposts encapsulated such sorrow.

On whether King Charles III is capable of filling the shoes of his late mother, Luke says the reigning monarch’s connection with Elizabeth will sustain any of his potential shortcomings. However, he does not believe the Duke of Sussex Harry and the Prince of Wales William can fulfil that role quite the same way. Future monarchs are forevermore tied to Elizabeth II, almost like post-Caesar and Augustan Roman Emperors in their desperation to be Caesarian. 

Walking along the streets of London, I felt as though I was strolling through the safest city in the world with army soldiers and members of the police force patrolling everywhere you turned. Entire roads were blocked off, constraining my ability to get to where I needed to be. 

I felt as trapped as Britain’s future without Elizabeth may be. 

Following the abdication crisis in 1936 with Edward VIII and his wife Mrs Simpson, the Irish State, while still a member of the Commonwealth, took advantage of the situation to remove all references of the British monarch from its constitution.

Already, rumblings about a potential cessation of Commonwealth Nations is occurring. The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda has openly stated he intends to call a referendum on the country becoming a republic within three years. Prime minister Jacinda Ardhern stated recently that she envisages New Zealand following the same path at some point in the near future. 

Scotland – where the Queen perished earlier this month – could see a revamp in independence rhetoric where the royal family garners a mere 45 per cent approval rating below the U.K national average of 60 per cent. Further polling suggests 36 per cent of Scots believe the death of the Queen would be the right moment to establish a republic. 

The monarch’s frosty reception with leaders of the devolved, yet wrought with inertia, Northern Ireland Assembly could spell trouble for a people – Unionists – still reeling from having been sectioned off from and by their supposed mainland Brethren.

The American author Frank Herbert spoke of the pitiful state of a declining Empire when he said: “Empires do not suffer emptiness of purpose at the time of their creation. 

“It is when they have become established that aims are lost and replaced by vague ritual.” 

All ‘Great Britain’ has now are vague ritualistic shibboleths, just without even a veneer of greatness left. 

WINSTON CHURCHILL DESCRIBED QUEEN ELIZABETH II AS “heir to all our traditions and glories, never greater than in her father’s days, and to all our perplexities and dangers, never greater in peacetime than now.

Energy crisis: Lockdown 2.0  


Theo McDonald

The twin European crises of war and an energy shortage have glued me to my couch, laser-focused on the minutiae of updates from ongoing offensives in the Donbas region of Ukraine to German year ahead electricity futures – a useful gauge of European energy prices. With the exception of the Covid pandemic, I have seldom found myself so captivated by the 24 hour news cycle. Yet, amidst my renewed media obsession, I can’t help but notice the stunning overlap between the pandemic and this latest series of events. 

Speaking earlier this week, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen unveiled a swathe of energy saving initiatives using the same jargon many health experts spoke in the early days of what was then coined the ‘Wuhan virus’ outbreak. 

“We see there’s a global scarcity of energy,” she began with. 

“So whatever we do, one thing is for sure, we have to save electricity, but we have to save it in a smart way. 

“So what we have to do is flatten the curve and avoid the peak demands.” 


‘Flatten the curve’ became the go-to phrase for every prime minister, president, health technocrat and head of every intergovernmental organisation during the pandemic. 

What came with it were a series of austere measures that society had to abide by in order to achieve that goal. Wash your hands, stay at home, don’t go 5km beyond your house, don’t hug your granny – all these dictates became gospel overnight. Flatten the curve was a euphemism for ensuring the health system did not become overwhelmed as happened in Italy. 

Now, in what can only be described as a case study in recurrence, the lights are out throughout Italy. 

In response to the gargantuan rise in energy costs, the Italian association of retail and catering businesses, Fipe-Confcommercio, has launched a nationwide energy saving initiative coined the ‘Bollette in Vetrina.’ This has led to several hospitality venues from bars to restaurants throughout Italy to defy the pioneering spirit of Thomas Edison and resort to antediluvian candles. 

Who knows what will be left of the high street. Amazon’s stock price will rise as SMEs become an endangered species. 

Other continental nations have acted in lockstep in implementing measures to flatten the energy curve: Germany is switching off the spotlights of its otherwise illuminating historical buildings and monuments; Austria has reduced street lighting and turned off commercial signs; and the Cormeilles-en-Parisis commune in France along with 12,000 other communes have either fully or partially switched off public street lighting at night. 

It was the former Mayor of Chicago and Chief of Staff to Barack Obama who said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.

“And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” 

Speaking on the lights out proposal, Yannick Boëdec, Mayor of the Cormeilles-en-Parisis commune stated, “The energy [price] boom made us take the step and try this experiment.” The proposal has been much vaunted by scientists who normally decry the deleterious impact street lighting can have on habitation and the wider environment. 

Expect many short-term energy saving strategies to become long-term energy saving strategies. 

The ‘new normal’ during the pandemic became a way of life in various industries and public spaces beyond the pandemic. Working from home – a necessity during the pandemic – has become commonplace in a plethora of industries; mask-wearing in health care settings is now obligated. And who could forget when two weeks to flatten the curve lasted all but several months? The Irishman who now heads BP, Bernard Looney, warned this week that the current energy crisis is not a “one-winter deal.” 


During the pandemic it was the private sector that acted swiftly with the remainder of industries acting subsequently. 

In February 2020, before ‘the covid’ became a household phrase throughout Ireland, the online recruitment agency Indeed, which employs over 1,000 people in Dublin, closed three of its worldwide offices on public health grounds. 

This week, several private banks, acting ahead of the inevitable winter crunch, from JP Morgan to Deutsche Bank implemented power outage simulations and secured backup capacity for when push comes to shove in the months ahead. 

Are governments observing? 

Much fuss was made about the failings of national governments to respond to the covid pandemic. Ireland allowed Italians to converge en masse on Dublin for the Ireland vs Italian Six Nations match, and allowed spectators to head East for the annual Cheltenham festival. Then health minister Simon Harris, who you’ll recall was bravely managing Ireland’s response to 19th Covid outbreak, pooh-poohed the very notion of an Italian travel ban as gratuitous and disproportionate before his government implemented a draconian hotel quarantine for travellers from covid hotspots. 

During this energy crisis, Ireland is suffering again from an inept minister and poor planning. 

For starters, we don’t even have an energy minister. We have a minister for environment, climate and communications. 

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,” said Mark Twain.

Back in 2007 when energy was part of his remit, Minister Eamon Ryan supported offshore energy drilling citing Ireland’s vulnerability as an energy importer. Now, during an energy crisis no less, he opposes such measures. Thus, Barryroe oil field off the Coast of Cork remains untapped; Corrib gas field off Mayo slowly dissipates; like MetroLink, LNG terminals look but a distant dream; and nuclear power is as forbidden as condoms were in the mid-20th century. 

Invariably, ordinary citizens will face the brunt of these colossal series of poor decisions.

The Department of Energy Environment, Climate and Communications has implemented a ‘Reduce Your Use’ initiative which will slowly but surely morph into the new ‘keep your distance’ and ‘wash your hands’  mantras – a repeat of the patronising sermons many thought confined to 2020-21. As part of these measures, the government has asked households to use washing machines, cookers, showers, dryers and kettles more prudently and outside the ‘peak hours’ of 4pm – 7pm. The public have also been asked to turn their thermostats down at home and to not heat empty rooms. Driving at lower speeds and not using your car for short journeys is also being encouraged by the government. 

At the EU level, the 15 per cent energy reduction package agreed by all member states, for which Ireland secured an exemption from due to its not receiving energy directly from Russia, could become mandatory on all member states if the situation worsens. 

The ghost towns, that a rise in interest rates will precipitate, will only grow as energy bills skyrocket. In normal times, energy bills constitute 5 per cent of a businesses’ costs; with an average profit margin of around 7 per cent for most businesses, and with energy prices set to triple, who knows what will be left of the high street. Amazon’s stock price will rise as SMEs become an endangered species. 

The policy of ‘growth’ built upon mounds and mounds of debt, often coined Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) or Keynesian economics on steroids, that accelerated with zealotry during the pandemic, will only continue during the energy lockdown. A repeat of the €200 flat energy credit subsidy, granted to all households regardless of income, is expected to be repeated and raised; recent reporting indicates a €3 billion cost-of-living package could be tabled by the coalition; and expect calls from trade unions to increase pay for workers – whose inevitable plight can only be sympathised with by this writer. 

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes,” said Mark Twain. During the 1970s oil crisis, when the OPEC members cut Europe off from their vast oil reserves in response to Europe’s intervening in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Italian government at the time banned the sale of petrol in cans, forced shops, restaurants and other venues to shut early and reduced the speeding limit to 75 mph. Some European jurisdictions even banned the usage of cars on Sundays and public holidays. The former professor at Harvard, the London School of Economics and New York University, and erudite historian Niall Ferguson speaking to CNBC last week against a backdrop of the idyllic Italian – of all places – Ambrosetti Forum landscape eerily warned that the 2020s could be worse than the 1970s: the Arab-Israeli war lasted 6 days; the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war has lasted 6 months. Sovereign debt levels are higher and productivity is much lower today than in the 1970s. The 1970s saw a détente between the two petulant superpowers; today, following stock market aficionado Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, relations between Peking and Washington could not be more adversarial. 

Following the Easter Rising, William Butler Yeats wrote that everything had changed and changed utterly. The series of monetary decisions and economic warfare tools the West has deployed will almost certainly not lead to a terrible beauty emerging. 

Winter is coming; are we ready? 

If the monarchy ended tomorrow – what would differentiate Ireland from Britain? 

Following the news that the British Sovereign Queen Elizabeth II perished, jubilation exuded sections of what is colloquially termed ‘Irish Twitter.’ In a spectacle of cheer matched only to that of Margaret Thatcher’s death, scores of users triumphantly celebrated the passing of one of the more benign heads of state in the world. The Irish rap group ‘Kneecap’ wrote: ‘We don’t discriminate when it comes to old folk, but we wouldn’t lick cream off her,’ they said as though there was any doubt about whether or not the two young rap artists had any lust for a 96-year-old lady. 

As head of the British Army she oversaw dozens of wars & the deaths of millions 

Belfast to Baghdad, Libya to the Malvinas

There’s a thousand crimes behind the crown + can’t forget her Peado son.’ 

The hair raising duo Jedward – yes they still exist – tweeted: ‘FYI we’re Irish ☘️ the country that has been oppressed historically by the monarchy! Please study your History! We haven’t said anything but the facts!’ 

The reaction from hordes of Irish people to the news was understandable given the innate desire of citizens of a Republic to scorn at any sycophancy others may share for an institution so antiquated it bestows to a head of state two birthday celebrations. However, the death of the Queen is a reminder that Britain’s shibboleths provide Ireland with something to distinguish itself from its closest neighbour and former oppressor.

In response to the mourning many Britons are currently in the throes of, the English Premier League postponed this weekend’s fixtures in deference to the befallen Queen. Gasps were immediately released from many of those same Elizabeth bashing voices, somehow distraught that a British based league had been cancelled after a British Monarch had died, almost unaware that a league of their own – the League of Ireland – also exists. 

This seemingly paradoxical juxtaposition made me ponder: Besides slight cultural differences and as the religious divide slowly dissipates, what truly differentiates Britain from Ireland? Of course, the Republic of Ireland is a separate Nation to Britain and will always remain as such, but symbolically – what distinguishes us? We watch the same sports, with the exception of the GAA; we speak the same language; we have some the same governing structures to a large degree; and Royal titles remain ubiquitous throughout our Nation. Royal College of Surgeons anyone? Lord Mayor of Dublin perhaps? Or how about the Royal Hospital Kilmainham? King’s Inn – the alma mater of some of Ireland’s most distinguished legal eagles. Don’t even get me started on Tanaiste Leo Varadkar’s alma mater The King’s Hospital where a painting of the executioner of the Archbishop of Armagh, Oliver Plunkett, King Charles II stands.

Yet, the one major source of difference remains the existence of a British monarchy. In Ireland Uachtarán na hÉireann Michael D. Higgins was elected and, along with his predecessors, is not bestowed the Aras by mere accident of birth – a source of pride for many Irish people. Despite his promise not to seek a second term, the public resoundingly granted Higgins another mandate and he remains largely popular. 

The Queen is central to Britain’s sense of nationhood, for Britain never really existed as a nation. England certainly did and continues to do so. As do Scotland and Wales, but Britain as a whole is wrapped around its ingrained adulation of monarchy. Take that away and what’s left that symbolically distinguishes Ireland from across the Irish Sea? I say this as a source of despair not apathy. 

If the civil war parties want to mend fences they should solve whodunnit

A state-backed commission into Michael Collins’s death would help reconcile the past

Theo McDonald

On November 22, 1963, the first Irish Catholic President of America John F. Kennedy was seated next to his wife in a continental four-door convertible limousine. As he waved to an adoring mass of Texans and other spectators, the wife of the Governor of the Lone Star State Nellie Connally said to the President, “You can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you,” to which the Bostonian Commander in Chief replied, “No, you certainly can’t.” Such confidence in the goodwill of those in Dealey Plaza was quickly dashed as within minutes of these kindhearted sentiments being uttered the 35th President was shot in the head.

Like Pearl Harbour, that day lives in infamy with the American people. The deaths of adored leaders can shudder the very spirit and essence of a nation. Some never recover. In Lebanon the assassination of statesman Hafik Al-Hariri in 2005, an event still shrouded in mystery, split the country’s disparate communities into two warring Islamic factions – the March 14 movement led by the nation’s Sunnis and the March 8 movement led by the Shi’ites – whose divisions still pervade to this day. The assassination of another US President a century earlier Abraham Lincoln in 1865 cut into the very soul of a nation he fought so tirelessly to unite.

As Ireland marks the centenary of the death of one of its most revered, yet divisive, leaders, finding out the truth about who killed Michael Collins would go a long way in binding centuries-old wounds in this country.

Speaking at Béal na Bláth to mark the death of the Big Fella last week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin stated that the death of Collins “deprived us of our best hope for reconciliation,” emphasising the point by adding, “The bitterness which grew out of the events of the following year showed how much was lost in this place.”

Despite the prevailing myths that surrounded the rather enigmatic character Collins became due to his premature death, he was no peacemaker. Collins was a guerrilla fighter who continued the tradition passed down from generations of Gaelic freedom fighters of placing the gun in Irish politics. “By their destruction, the very air is made sweeter,” he said of the deaths of British Intelligence operatives shot dead, many still in their slumber, by his orders on Bloody Sunday, 1920.

With the absence of a coherent explanation for the death of Ireland’s George Washington, conspiracies fill the void.

While his legacy is tainted by the brush of a pen when he signed his death warrant in 1921, Collins has been placed at the pinnacle of figures who contributed to the cause of Irish freedom from Theobald Wolfe Tone to Bobby Sands.

That same feeling of warmness and confidence that Kennedy exuded as he rode open air through Dallas must have pervaded Collins’s psyche as he drove in similar conditions in his home county of Cork; “Yerra, they’ll never shoot me in my own county,” he is quoted as saying before he departed for the Mouth of Flowers.

Within minutes of arriving in the desolate West Cork Village, Collins and his entourage of National Army comrades were met with a fusillade from Anti Treatyites in various directions. “Stop and we’ll fight them,” he is alleged to have retorted in a move that ultimately cost him his life.

Within seconds of the gun battle involving more than 30 armed men in total, the only person who had bodyguards there to protect him would die, leaving a gaping wound in his head and the heart of a nation he fought valiantly to defend: half a million would attend his funeral.

The official narrative is that Collins was killed by World War 1 Veteran, the ‘Patsy’, Sonny O’Neill – a man so wounded from his service on the continent he retained permanent damage to his right arm. However, with the absence of a coherent explanation for the death of Ireland’s George Washington, conspiracies fill the void.

There is no autopsy; there was no inquiry. Inquest or death cert? Nada.

But what there was was a coverup.

On 9 March 1932, days before Eamon DeValera’s soldiers of destiny would enter into government after having laid scorn on the notion of a Free State, Minister for Defence Desmond Fitzgerald – Garret Fitzgerald’s father – ordered the burning of all records pertaining to the civil war period, allegedly including Collins’s autopsy carried out by Oliver St John Gogarty. It was Cumann na nGaedheal’s way of ensuring the alleged enemies of the state wouldn’t have access to documents of a most sensitive nature.

The open-air car he was a passenger in on that fateful day was auctioned off to Kenya somehow. Imagine if the limousine Kennedy rode in on his final day on earth ended up in some far-flung region, the yanks would, quite rightly, scream conspiracy.

The man who accompanied the Commander in Chief of the National Army that day General Emmet Dalton, the Jack Rugby of this saga, who was instrumental in the coverup, ordered that no inquest into the shooting be conducted. His theory that a ricochet killed his superior is taken for gospel by historians today. But the comedian Paddy Cullivan, whose slightly parodic yet utterly incisive play into the assassination titled ‘The Murder of Michael Collins’, remains incredulous, postulating that the distance from O’Neill to Collins – 50 yards – would mean the ricochet theory would be “like winning the Euromillions.”

The Taoiseach is right: the death of Michael Collins divided an already divided nation. Subsequent to his perishing, the Free State engaged in a barbaric series of executions of fellow Irishmen on spurious grounds. A negotiator to the treaty the Free State was claiming to uphold, Erskine Childers was executed for mere possession of a firearm. Before his death he shook the hands of his executors advising them to “take a step or two forward… it will be easier that way.” It is highly unlikely Collins would’ve condoned such brutality. In fact, Collins was a thorn in the side of the Free State: due to the surreptitious organisation the IRB, of which he was head, declaring supremacy over the new State, and having engineered a ‘Northern campaign’ to free the 6 counties from British rule in direct contrast to the Provisional Government’s policy, all the while pro and anti-treaty factions in Dublin were negotiating a potential combined force to defend Catholics against the Belfast pogroms. Such an intrepid figure, had he lived, could certainly have been instrumental in bridging the divide that came to define Irish politics for years thereafter.

It’s a shame his death is still clouded with mystery. That should change.

Nations must always investigate the skeletons in their closet. In 2015, the Russian Federation opened a renewed investigation into the heinous murder of the Romanov Family by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Such a portentous moment in Russia’s blood-stained history, that set the stage for Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, was treated with the delicacy that is required. 

Ireland must do the same. 

Ireland – a nation of Protestants?

I recall acquiring a late night taxi a few months ago in the bustling City Centre – a rare occurrence given the immense footfall and rarity of taxis that has now become the norm in Dublin. 

As is often the case, I sparked up a conversation with the taxi driver. He was from Nigeria. I inquired what it was like living in the West African region. He mentioned that he grew up in Biafra – a schismatic state that seceded from Nigeria in the late 60s during the nation’s Civil War. The division was based on religious differences between the country’s Igbo and Yoruba factions often simplified as an Islamic vs Christian skirmish. The taxi driver expressed his incredulity at the divisions that historically permeated in Ireland between factions of the same Christian fate – Catholics and Protestants. ‘Why don’t you guys get along, you’re the same,’ he observed. 

Now, it seems, those differences are slowly but surely dissipating. 

On Saturday, August 20, columnist for the Independent Sarah Carey opined on reforms the Catholic Apostolic Church should consider. In it, Carey, exhibiting the bravado of Martin Luther himself, asks: ‘If Irish Catholics truly are so desperate for church reform why not break from Rome?’

Surely Carey is aware that there already exists a Christianised schism from Rome: Protestantism.

The suggestion comes amid a flurry of change in Irish perceptions regarding the Church’s teachings. A recent survey of thousands of Catholics from over 20 dioceses in Ireland found the majority favour a revolutionary, or evolutionary depending on your interpretation, change to Church dictates. The majority of respondents expressed approval or consideration for the ordination of females; allowing priests to marry; and approval for single parents and divorcees to remarry among other seismic suggestions.

When the Fidei Defensor Henry VIII was refused an annulment from Pope Clement VII, this had major ramifications leading to the establishment of what became known as the Church of England in Britain and the Church of Ireland on this Island. Another serial womaniser and current lame duck prime minister Boris Johnson’s divorce status didn’t stop Father Daniel Humphreys from officiating his wedding to Carrie Antoinette Symonds – exemplifying the laissez-faire approach the church now has to its antecedent austere teachings.

The views expressed by the diocesans were elucidated in a letter sent to the Vatican by Catholic Primate of Ireland Eamon Martin. Mary McAleese, another proponent of Protestantism, heralded the suggestions as “church altering.”

Protect us from the shackles of priest-craft,” the Free Presbyterian Reverend Ian Paisley once retorted as the spokesperson for Ulster’s Protestants, hell-bent on never ceding to a United Ireland in which their faith would be a minority.

Now, Irish Catholics seem keen on ending such “priest-craft” themselves. This has created a crisis of identity among Ulster’s Unionists to distinguish themselves in any way possible from the majority of inhabitants on this Island. Presently when you ask the leaders of Unionism what their abiding fear about a United Ireland is, they won’t mention a loss of faith, but rather, a loss of nationality.

I would never repudiate the fact that I am an Irishman,” Paisley said in June 1991. Today’s Unionists refuse to acknowledge even a tinge of Irishness in them: only 1.4 per cent of DUP members view themselves as Irish at all; their sole raison d’être is claiming nationality to a separate landmass.

Faith no longer divides Ireland. The majority of people on this Island, whilst observant to their faith, are no longer strict adherents to any religious institution. Years of foreboding that a United Ireland would mean Rome Rule is no longer the case. The maintaining of the Union Jack over Ulster on national grounds is taking precedence over any doctrinal devotion.