It seems clear now that Ireland has ceased to be a country and has become rather a poster child for every Liberal crackpot notion and intellectual fashion. Let three recent examples suffice.
This week Leo Varadkar is on the cover of Time magazine, looking like the generic leader of…well, take your pick of any country. The Time cover doesn’t give you many clues. The pithy headline reads “An Island at the Centre of the World”. Evoking a sense of Irish exceptionalism on the one hand and national dissolution on the other. What is rare is beautiful, so the saying goes. But little about modern Ireland, good or bad, seems rare or novel. Indeed the Time magazine headline tips the reader off in advance that Ireland is everywhere and nowhere.
Why is Leo Varadkar on the cover of Time magazine anyway? Not for anything he has achieved surely but because the international media are fascinated by the fact that Ireland has an “openly gay and half-Indian” Taoiseach. It is all he will ever be to them. It is all he will ever be remembered for. He has become a symbol and he seems quite happy to play that buffoonish part. So when Leo tells us that Ireland is to be “a light unto the world” in the age of Brexit, he means it in the light of that symbolism.
Ireland is the poster child for Liberalism, for openness, for global capitalism.
An Post has a similar message for us. Their flashy new advertising campaign welcomes us to “a world without borders, a world wide open”. It’s not clear where the credit belongs for this highly charged propaganda, whether with An Post themselves or (perhaps more likely) the flashy marketing firm they commissioned to produce it.
The lyrics “Open Up Your Doors” play over the transient, postcard imagery. But really the last thing the postal service should be doing is opening things. Once more, emotive images of Irish people abroad are cynically exploited and for what? To create a slick, polished bricolage. An Ireland with no beginnings and no ends. An Ireland of transience and dislocation. The sense of waking up in a foreign country. Home is everywhere and home is nowhere. All of us are foreigners now and yet none of us are.
Ireland is the poster child for rootlessness.
One final example. The Guardian newspaper has just produced a YouTube puff piece on Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo, in which the “most cosmopolitan town” in Ireland is depicted as a quaint little paradise. The glossy cinematography paints an idyllic vista, and the general tone exudes levels of sentimentality which these days are normally reserved for documentaries on the wonders of Al-Andalus.
At a time when other multicultural experiments are failing or faltering badly, sweet innocent Liberal Ireland is the perfect fantasy diversion. The friendly rural aesthetic, fertile ground for a cynical London media to repackage the melting pot. It might as well be The Quiet Man for all the care they give to objectivity. And a few willing locals, happy as always to play the bit parts. If The Guardian tried to produce this same tripe in some North of England town, they’d get properly laughed out of it. And one cannot help thinking that Ballyhaunis is being used here to lecture the English working class and lower middle class who voted for Brexit. Ireland is being used as an example of globalism’s triumph over rootedness.
Ireland is the poster child for diversity, for Islamisation, for multiculturalism, and for self-forgetting.