Three weeks have passed since Donald Trump’s shock election as US President. In that time, he has flirted with neo-Nazis (literally) and sought to appoint some of them to positions of power within his Administration. He has renewed a commitment to implementing some truly harmful policy positions, all the while half-heartedly vowing to become a President representative of ‘all Americans.’
Subsequent to the election result, thousands of Americans have mobilised in protest against Trump’s dangerous rhetoric in a show of unified resistance. People of colour, migrants, LGBTQ groups, women’s orgs – effectively anyone whose freedom is at risk of being eroded over the next four (and, GULP, potentially eight) years – have made it clear that they are ready and willing to fight back.[pullquote]It’s been interesting to watch the relentless outrage from Ireland at Trump’s ascent. Not because it isn’t justified – it absolutely is – but it comes with a stench of hypocrisy.[/pullquote]
It’s been interesting to watch the relentless outrage from Ireland at Trump’s ascent. Not because it isn’t justified – it absolutely is – but it comes with a stench of hypocrisy.
“This man will never represent our values” politicians, columnists, academics and commentators have hastily gathered to decry. An impassioned speech in the Seanad from Aodhan O’Riordáin ended up going viral in the States, where he’s now seemingly regarded as a certified hero of the American Left.
If only they knew.
If only they knew that after five years in Government, O’Riordáin and his Party presided over precisely zero change in the barbaric Direct Provision system. This is a system that effectively imprisons asylum seekers in inhumane conditions indefinitely, stripping them of basic human rights in the process. In fact, it hasn’t even been afforded reform, let alone the complete dismantling it warrants. In fact, the number of asylum seekers entering Direct Provision actually doubled between 2014 and 2015. Quite a legacy.
If only they knew that while many of us here in Ireland decry the continued brutality against water protectors in North Dakota, we’re imprisoning working-class teenagers with the temerity to express anger – and doing so with minimal objection from many of those so horrified by those same actions across the Atlantic.
Enda Kenny, meanwhile – supreme leader of our nation – decided to take to Twitter to offer congratulations to Trump’s new Vice President, Mike Pence. And it wasn’t a congratulation borne out of diplomatic necessity; rather, a gushing, heartfelt endorsement of a man who equates abortion with first-degree murder and supports conversion therapy for LGBTQ young people. Enda’s exact words? “[Pence] certainly knows Ireland and the issues that matter to our people”. That’s m’boy!
Had a really good conversation tonight with US VP Elect Mike Pence. He certainly knows Ireland and the issues that matter to our people.
— Enda Kenny (@EndaKennyTD) November 18, 2016
Ireland is warmly regarded from afar as the land of Saints and Scholars. It’s a notion that evokes pleasant imagery. Culturally, artistically and historically there’s a certain truth to it. But the Ireland I’m more familiar with in my twenty-five years is an Ireland of political indifference, of collective amnesia, of tolerating the intolerable. We continuously re-elect people whose rhetoric might not be as dramatic as a Trump or a Farage, but whose actions (and sometimes inaction) leaves us with consequences every bit as devastating.
This is an Ireland with one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the Western world and one of only two countries anywhere in the world where it is considered a constitutional matter. We force 4,000 pregnant people abroad or underground every year. Women have died as a result of our archaic 8th amendment.
This is an Ireland in which 96% of State-funded schools are under religious control, enabling discrimination in access to school places to children of certain faiths. It means that parents are often forced into baptising their children to secure an education and must then endure a curriculum influenced by a religious ethos even if they’re completely opposed to it.[pullquote]The Ireland I’m more familiar with in my twenty-five years is an Ireland of political indifference, of collective amnesia, of tolerating the intolerable.[/pullquote]
This is an Ireland in which almost six thousand people are currently accessing homelessness services. An Ireland in which the number of families identified as homeless increased by 103% (ONE HUNDRED AND THREE PERCENT) between 2015 and 2016.
If this was a limitless column, I could’ve talked about media monopolisation, a crumbling health service, State-sponsored tax evasion and increasingly precarious working conditions – but I think the message is fairly clear by now.
We lament, decry and denounce the inequalities we see all around us but are largely complicit in those which occur right here. We have movements of resistance but they’re nowhere near big enough.
This piece may seem relentlessly pessimistic but its intention is actually to try and ignite conversation about how we so badly need to find the energy, collectively, to enact real change here in Ireland. Our dismay at International events is entirely warranted but why not direct that toward things we can truly influence. [pullquote]We lament, decry and denounce the inequalities we see all around us but are largely complicit in those which occur right here.[/pullquote]
People power drove the Yes vote in last year’s referendum, it forced the Government into considerable concessions around water charges and looking back a little further, it forced the State apology to Magdalene survivors. On a lesser but no less important scale, transport workers have shown us that collective organising in the workplace can lead to improved conditions.
Join a political party. Join a trade union. Become an activist. Write something. Go to a meeting – whether it’s the Abortion Rights Campaign, Equate, a Tenants’ Association, or anything else that’s important to you. Idle resentment for the state of affairs – or worse still, apathy – will never drive change. Energy, enthusiasm and working together in solidarity make it so much more possible.