Reading Time in Minutes
- Irish people don’t buy into orthodoxy are sceptical of authority.
- The country runs on informal authority often unseen and mostly benign.
- We lost our 17th century leadership caste – the equivalent social group that reimagined Europe and North America in the 18th Century.
- The strength of our people is that others took up the mantle of leadership for 300 years.
About Frank Hannigan:
Dubliner in Cork, Business Advisor, Interested in Irish History
Contacting Frank Hannigan:
You can reach Frank via email.
By Frank Hannigan
One of the interesting things about Ireland is the number of people who have consistently had informal power in politics, business and society.
I put this down to our intrinsic dislike of orthodoxy and scepticism about authority.
History suggest that the Irish never took formal power structures that seriously.
Foreigners arriving in waves from the 12th century onwards to rule the Irish probably reinforced the view that those in authority were not all that competent.
For many Irish, ways to undermine oppression were legion.
In the end the most powerful way to disrupt oppression was to lead beyond authority.
Many Norman towns disappeared in the centuries after Strongbow.
Those that remained, did so because informal Gaelic power allowed them to do so.
The Normans recognised that winning a war in Ireland was easy.
Winning the peace was impossible without the informal power of Gaelic Ireland.
The Normans became more Irish than the Irish themselves for the reason that the Irish had more power over their destiny than Dublin Castle or a remote English Court.
Cromwell destroyed Gaelic Ireland.
His carefully measured genocide wiped out leaders in politics, culture, law and medicine.
The writers of history ceased writing on the island.
The Irish language was critically injured.
The few Gaelic voices recorded at that time show that significant power remained in Irish hands.
Even in heavily planted Ulster, the expected inflows of protestants to underpin a new British Society did not arrive to supplant Gaelic society.
The Irish middle classes and traditional leaders left for Europe in huge numbers in the 17th Century.
They became leaders in French, Spanish and Germanic Political Economies.
They reimagined South America.
They helped build the manifest destiny of the United States.
We can only wonder what impact these generations might have had on Ireland.
What we do know is that leadership beyond authority remained significant in the 300 years after the disasters of the 17th Century.
The United Irishmen emerged from Catholic and Presbyterian communities across the Island with an ideology that tapped into a new way of thinking about how leadership might work.
The use of peaceful mass political protest by Daniel O’Connell was imagined, executed and replicated by others across the planet.
When other places had Belle Epochs we had movements of rebirth.
All that potential at the turn of the 20th century did not turn into growth.
The decades after independence have been categorised as static and inward-looking.
The radicalism of the 18th and 19th century seemed to disappear from the Irish narrative.
We were not able to feed our people and all that talent disappeared on boats to build societies and economies beyond our shores.
We live in an age where formal power and the establishment once again do not have the trust of the Irish people – 10% having no trust at all in politicians according to research.
We have been here before.
To grow in the 21st Century, we Irish must tap into our commitment to informal power, leadership beyond authority.
We face challenges like Climate Change, Housing, Education and Urban Design.
While the law and the political chamber have roles in building these solutions, challenges like these are rarely solved by those with formal power.
The dynamism of small numbers of well organised and researched people inevitably is what makes change and growth happen.
Time for another reboot of what it is to be an Irish Citizen.
“It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do.”