Sunday, September 12, 2010

O'Neill - 2016 Proclamation

I have just read "2016 A New Proclamation for a New Generation" authored by Gerard O'Neill. I don't do full reviews on this blog but below are a few thoughts on the book.

Gerard is is a good colleague and supporter of work that goes on in this Institute. He is also an erudite and highly experienced individual. He holds an MsC in Economics from the LSE and has had a varied career, most notably as a founder director of Amarach Research, one of the largest private sector research groups in Ireland. Most local readers of the blog will testify that he is a fascinating and engaging speaker and anyone who tunes into Turbulence Ahead, his blog, will know that he is someone with his fingers on the pulse of a wide range of issues. Like Stephen Kinsella's book "Ireland in 2050" I am struck by how important it is to have some constructive ideas about the future getting out there and how suitable both Stephen and Gerard are to steer a widespread debate.

The book is structured into eight chapters based on key phrases from the 1916 proclamation with a ninth chapter drawing things together into a 2016 proclamation.   Chapter 1 "the people of ireland" deals with the basic desire to be part of a country. Chapter 2 "the dead generations" details the different traditions living in Ireland. Chapter 3 "now seizes that moment" deals partly with linkages to Irish abroad but mostly with the idea of time and opportunity. Chapter 4 "the right of the people" deals with sovereignty. Chapter 5 "exaltation among the nations" examines international relations. Chapter 6 "cherishing all the children" deals with north-south relations. Chapter 7 "the suffrages of all" deals with gender. Chapter 8 "August Destiny" deals partly with globalisation and the general issue of Ireland's place in the world.

The key strength of the book is its breadth drawing from the fact that Gerard is a wide reader, a deep thinker and has a broad sense of the issues facing Ireland. His use of survey data blended in with narrative is interesting. His treatment of North-South issues and the Global Irish is also great (though I can't share his enthusiasm for the Global Irish farmleigh forum). In general the book hits many key themes including relations between north and south, globalisation, gender, religion, national identity, competitiveness, european integration and many others. It does so through a running dialogue between current demographic, cultural, social and economic trends and the aspirations of the original founders of the Republic in an attempt to craft an updated set of principles to guide democracy in the next 100 years.

Whether you go with the overall framing of the book will depend a lot on your general attitudes toward nationalism and the Irish national project. I have changed my mind a few times even while penning this post, which is perhaps a good sign for Gerard in terms of starting a debate. On the one hand it is a highly artificial construction forcing the author to fit a wide range of complex issues into a framework dictated by a page of text written 100 years ago to announce a revolution. On the other hand, the text is pivotal in Irish history and may help engage a much wider readership than a more neutral frame. Using such a broad framework may help to ensure that debate in the next five years doesn't descend too far into the mad management speak that has emerged from government buildings in recent years. It merits some praise that he does not use the phrase "Ireland Inc" at any stage in the book and that "smart economy" doesn't appear in the 2016 proclamation nor "national brand" either. Look forward to hearing the book being debated over the coming months.

1 comment:

Kevin Denny said...

One can only hope that he doesn't use "Celtic Tiger" either.