Your favourable take on recent transitioning in Irish politics employs a neat and worthy WB Yeats spin (The Guardian view on Irish politics: an enviable beauty is born, 20 July). From “terrible” to “enviable” is a welcome moniker change, albeit it took a century or so to crystallise this “beauty”. The sorry nonsense that prevailed for so long between the two dominant centrist parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, has for too long stymied any modicum of decency in the round. The erstwhile Celtic Tiger delusion of grandeur was trumped only by the ensuing fastidious commitment to corporate aggrandisement, with an obsequiousness that has not served the poor or homeless well.
True, Ireland has burnished its diplomatic credentials and can now boast some big players on the EU circuit. But what’s more urgent is a leftwing influence to balance the democratic books of inequity. The Apples, Googles, Facebooks and big pharmas of this world can find much too easy comfort here, providing high-end tech jobs with favourable tax arrangements, but a recalibration towards a broader spread of the fiscal cake is the salient priority.
Now there is a breakthrough of sorts at last, though still no secure left-leaning influence at the top table of governance. The Irish handling of the Covid-19 crisis has certainly been OK in comparison with others, but it’s how we choose to emerge from the dark hole of the viral vortex that will be the defining metric. Sinn Féin was excluded from participation although it won the popular vote and, along with the cluster of other leftwing entities, languishes on the opposition benches. We still have a bit to go and grow, but it’s a good-enough start and perhaps a dollop of envy is allowed.
Lismore, County Waterford, Ireland
• In your otherwise excellent editorial, you refer to Ireland as “a 98-year-old nation”. The independent Irish state is indeed 98 years old, but the Irish nation is much older. How much older? Well, Irish nationality was recognised by Shakespeare. In Henry V (1599), he has Fluellen refer to “many of your nation” when addressing the Irishman Captain Macmorris. Macmorris famously – and perhaps ambiguously – replies: “What ish my nation?” However one might answer that question, the Irish nation is something other – something bigger and older – than the Irish state. The two should not be conflated.
Felix M Larkin
• Your editorial paints too rosy a picture of Ireland. Certainly, it’s positive that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have joined forces, though it’s remarkable that it took so long for two almost identical centre-right parties to get into political bed together. Also, the Greens will be a valuable voice in the new coalition at a time when Brussels, with the European green deal, is finally getting serious about climate change.
Still, big problems remain with Ireland’s politics and society. For instance, as you say, some fret that Sinn Féin’s strings are being pulled by a cabal of old-style Belfast republicans. Scandalously, rents in Dublin continue to exceed even Celtic Tiger levels. Finally, although the Irish government has rightly identified the successful reopening of schools as key to bringing back economic and social normality, there’s a lack of planning and preparedness for how that will work.
But I sleep sounder knowing that my future is in the hands of Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan rather than Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Dominic Cummings.
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