In coming towards the end of our first 100 years as a republic perhaps it is a good time to consider what kind of Ireland we would like to now create. Options available arise inside of two types of future, one based on what is predictable and another on that desired with the latter offering an opportunity to create from a vision of that we may wish for. While it is one thing to create a vision of a future it is another to bring it about. Bringing closure to any incompletions from the past is a key first step.
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- At this time of turning we have an opportunity to create a new vision for Ireland
- We can create a ‘desirable’ future rather than live into what is ‘predictable’
- Incompletions from our collective past limit future possibilities
- Closing past based incompletions allows us fulfil on all we could envision for our second century
About Michael Power
Originally from Clare Michael lives in Dublin and has spent over 30 years working in different roles in public transport. His interests lie in creating the future and enjoys time in the west of Ireland amongst the people and landscapes.
Contacting Michael Power:
By Michael Power
- THIS TIME OF TURNING
So where do we go from here? At this threshold time when our first century as an independent nation steps into its’ second. In this time of global disruption, pandemic, turbulence in the western world with our nearest neighbours losing their sense of self in a search for times past and our good friends across the wild Atlantic waters turning on themselves and the great possibility for humankind they represented.
So what is the possibility for Ireland for our second century? What is it we may wish to create? Imagine those looking back a hundred years from now reflecting on the century gone, what is it we would want them to say about those people that had the opportunity to create a second century? What are we going to do with this opportunity? Could or would we wish to create an Ireland where everyone felt included, where all voices were heard? What would our place be in the world? How might we, those that inhabit this little plot of land on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, contribute to the ‘Second Coming’ as Yeats called it for all that share this planet, for humanity? Is there a future we might be interested in creating, even inspired about? One we would then be engaged in bringing about? Questions? So many questions!
- ‘PROBABLE OR DESIRABLE’ FUTURE
Useful to consider first the nature of ‘future’ and how it comes about. Consider there are two broad types, a ‘probable’ future and a ‘desirable, future. A probable future is that future which is coming at us, we have a sense of what it will look like. It is based on our expectations of what is probable, most likely and how the future is expected to work out. It comes from our experience, what happened in the past. In essence the probable future is a product of the past.
Another type is a ‘desirable’ future, one that is wished for, coming from a vision, a picture of that future we would like to have, as desirable. It is a future that is effectively created. It comes from say a ‘possibility’ of how the future could be if we were to invent it. It is independent of the past.
So our two types of future, probable and desirable, get created from the ‘past’ or a ‘possibility’ respectively. Very different worlds! Which would you prefer to have coming towards you?
Knowing now that we can create our future, what would we create, what would that future look like? A question surely worth exploring during this time of disruption. A question for individuals to engage on, families, community groups, those in leadership positions and at a collective national level, perhaps a question for a Citizens Assembly to engage on.
A possible place to commence such a conversation about our ‘desirable’ future might be to reflect on that which was declared by Padraig Pearse on that formative Easter Monday morning 1916. That far reaching and progressive Declaration committed us to the creation of a very specific type of Republic, one that ‘guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all it citizens, and declares it resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally’. A progressive vision for a new Republic being created at that time. A progressive vision for any Republic at any time! This could be one vision for our future now, as we stand at the start of our second century. And there will be many visions, all worthy of being placed on the table for discussion and towards aligning on a consensus version, one we can hear our voice in, one we all have a part in shaping and bringing into existence.
- FULFILLING ON OUR FUTURE
It is one thing to create a progressive and aligned vision for a new century and yet a whole other thing to bring it about. One requirement in bringing the ‘desired’ future fully into being is to stay responsible for what is created, holding ourselves and others accountable for acting consistent with the vision. A key component involves clearing up any breakdowns that may occur, bringing closure to where actions taken are not aligned to the vision. This suggests a link between the past and fulfilment of a future vision.
Mostly we think that it is our actions today, in the present, that create our future. Perhaps this is not the full case. Perhaps there are actions taken in the past or things that happened in our lives which are somehow incomplete and continue to impact on the possibility of our lives, like an invisible thread wrapped around a past based event that is hooked to our future and holds it back. So how do we know what these things may be? We generally know, or at least have some sense of what they might be, enough to initiate an exploration of them, recognising that in any such exploration they will be revealed and the power they have had over the future will start to dissipate.
This all sounds quite abstract and would benefit from some examples. Consider so, for the moment again, that which Pearse declared as a new Republic. Did we do what was necessary to bring closure to any areas of incompletion that arose over time so they didn’t become an invisible thread holding back the potential fulfilment of the future? The following are examples where perhaps the ideals espoused by the vision weren’t lived and could be addressed now in a way that acknowledges our past actions or inactions and brings them to completion;
- Stardust Fire; Did we for example treat the relatives of those 48 young people who lost their lives in the Stardust Fire on St Valentines night 1981 and the survivors that suffered injuries with the respect they deserved and with those impacted bring completion to this awful tragedy. The fact that it is returned to so frequently over the decades since and that we are now about to commence an inquest again into its causes answers this question with a definitive ‘no’.
- Mother and Baby Homes; While we thought that hidden by the green grass growing from the soil settling over the many bodies of babies buried across our lands, out of sight behind the wooden doors of the so called ‘mother and baby homes’, was consigned to our past, we failed to acknowledge the horrific impact it had on those involved, along with the hold it has over all of us and our collective future. What was hidden holds us hostage to that time and needs to be openly acknowledged and discussed until those most directly impacted can declare it complete.
- Supporting our Northern neighbours; As we seek to create a ‘shared island’ those of us in the South who were around during the times termed ‘the troubles’ need to reflect on how we listened for and supported our fellow island citizens during these difficult times. Were we secretly satisfied to live in the comfort of our relative peace, busy building a new Ireland, an open economy, a place for ourselves in a modern Europe, preferring to turn a blind eye to that which was happening in our Northern province? Did we build, what David Trimble suggested of Unionism in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, a ‘cold house’ for all our northern neighbours where a physical border was only matched in power by the one collectively constructed in our minds? Perhaps something here for us to consider as we seek to create a new vision for a ‘shared island’.
These are examples of situations where we as a collective, most certainly some of our people, are not complete with that which happened in the past. We can say this with certainty by considering how much time and energy we invest in each of these open items many decades after their occurrence.
Assuming we wish to do it, how would we go about bringing closure to each of these and other such wounds? The first and most significant step is to acknowledge the hurt caused, allowing this to be fully expressed and for all to be with its impact while embracing any actions that flow from such a process.
Embracing the totality of our collective past, acknowledging all that worked about it while doing what is necessary to untie any invisible threads that hook elements that didn’t work to our ‘desirable’ future, will free us all from limitations of the past and unleash a transformative power that allows us fulfil on the possibility of all we could freely envision it means to be Irish over the century to come.