COMMENT: Proud to be Irish? This is no country for old men... or our precious children
Ireland "is no country for old men," WB Yeats famously wrote in Sailing To Byzantium. But it's hardly ideal for raising our children either.
This week we will celebrate all things Irish - proud to wear our green and have all the craic. We'll toast the shamrock and bask in the glow of March 17.
And while we clink and sing, will we also continue to blissfully ignore the long, dark shadow that has crept across our island? The shadow of complacency and of acceptance.
Our elderly die on hospital trolleys every day without the dignity they deserve or the respect they have earned. The mismanagement of our health service means, as just one example, that our children's bones have to stick through their backs before they are granted basic surgery.
Have we so quickly forgotten our church abuse scandals where children were intimidated, sexualised and then shamed for speaking out?
Are we satisfied with a government that has such a lack of conviction that not enough TDs turned up for the debate on the Tuam Babies this week?
Proud to be Irish now?
This country keeps its heads down and its mouth shut. We elevate the institutions over the individuals. And we have ourselves to blame for this complacency.
Social media is shouty and belligerent - everyone condemns everything but nobody wants to do a damn thing about it. March for this and march for that and what's the next cause I can share on Facebook? And then... fade to black.
We turn the newspaper pages with impotent outrage over the harrowing details of frightened mothers cast out of their homes, stuck behind walls, banished from their community and their newborns mistreated beyond words. "How awful", we think and we flick on a movie - the government will sort it out.
This quaint old emerald isle is riddled with shame Our most vulnerable are overlooked; our homeless, our elderly and even our children are degraded.
There is a sea of sick babies who wouldn't be sick if they had been offered an anomaly scan while their mums were pregnant. Only six out of 19 Irish maternity hospitals offer this service. Our babies are being let down before they are even born. Like baby Ethan pictured here.
So, you see, the bragging rights of our humble nation is beginning to grate just a little and it is hard to jingle my green bells when we live in a country that shows no signs of really flexing its integrity muscle.
So let's hear the outcry for Enda Kenny meeting Donald Trump - the Worst Thing That Has Ever Happened To Irish people. And to be sure to be sure, the hashtag warriors will expend their energy typing angrily 'not in my name' while they let their representatives away with not turning up for a debate about 8,000 forgotten babies lost somewhere in the dirt of Irish soil.
The keypads replace the placard - giving way to faddy click politics. We need real people with real integrity and real determination and the real stomach for change that will get involved with politics on a real level. Let's encourage our children to get active - to understand that they have the power to change.
Let's move idealism to realism before we drown our shamrock for good.
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