10 April 2021: Historic day for Ireland!
Ireland is and remains a small country and it will stay that way in terms of size and number of inhabitants (just 5 million for the republic). But we are talking here about a small country that suddenly started playing in the big league.
Indeed, while it was still recently a poor country mostly known for its greenness, beer and sheep, the country experienced an unprecedented economic boom in the 1990s. With good communication and proper taxation, opened up thanks to Ryanair, the dwarf has become a giant, or almost. Celtic Tiger and National Pride.
Ireland has this ability to make gigantic leaps, ability that we have long lost in France: within 6 years, the country has recognized gay marriage (May 2015), has elected a Taoiseach – prime minister – born of Indian father and openly gay (June 2017), has legalized abortion (May 2018) and has just elected this morning a woman at the head of the prestigious Trinity College (10 April 2021). Böll was right when he came back to Ireland after a decade, writing “Thirteen years later, a baker’s dozen, Ireland has skipped a century and a half and caught up with five more” (« dreizehn, ein Bäckerdutzend Jahre später, sind in Irland eineinhalb Jahrhunderte übersprungen und fünf weitere eingeholt worden » Irisches Tagebuch, 1957/2018 : 125)
Linda Doyle was elected provost-elect a few minutes ago and will take up her duties on August 1. For the record, Trinity College is the only university in Ireland that does not require a minimum level of Irish at the entrance for its national students, as it was founded by Queen Elizabeth I. It’s still a legacy of the United Kingdom, the country is always between tradition and modernity, servitude and independence.
When you think of Mother and Baby Homes or worse, the Magdalene laundries, you realize that Irland has come a very long way in a very short space of time. Far from Kevin’s piety or the charismatic evangelisation of St. Patrick, it was there that – under the yoke of a Catholic Church blinded by its omnipotence in front of a servile population – young women « fallen » pregnant without being married were subjected for years to forced slavery, their children sold for adoption at best, if not died often of malnutrition and mistreatment, their bodies buried in mass graves or supplied to the same Trinity College for dissection.
So yes, seeing today a woman elected to head Trinity College, it is quite a revenge and a historic day for Ireland.
Even though, in the year II of the pandemic, Ireland has been experiencing the strictest and especially the longest restrictions of the entire planet and overstretches the concept of insularity. The authorities just implanted a mandatory quarantine in a hotel costing 1875 euros, even forcing most of its European friends to stay 12 days there. But at the same time the whole city of Dublin is just a huge construction site and prepares to accommodate for good the survivors of Brexit. Rental, educational and health infrastructures in particular will take a few years to follow, but I remain convinced that if Ireland does not push too much its insularity, and this also means pacifying once and for all its relations with Northern Ireland whose recent turmoil shows this is not over yet, then the country has beautiful cards to play in a post-Brexit and post-covid Europe.
The Irish have a resilience and adaptability that really amazes me.