In 1948, the Oireachtas (the legislature of Ireland) declared that Ireland, previously a part of the United Kingdom and under British occupation, would become its own Republic after ‘800 years’ of British rule. Although this was a huge step in terms of autonomy and self-governing, Ireland took a while to establish itself, both culturally and economically. The realisation of finally being free from British rule caused a need for self-identification within Irish people, who needed a cultural and personal revolution of their own to move on from years of outsider rule.
Dublin is a city of its own. Separated by a river that had a reputation in the past of splitting rich from poor, it has experienced a cultural upheaval that had both its negative and positive impacts. Gentrification of the city centre and previously ‘dodgy’ areas have caused rent to skyrocket and tipped off a housing crisis that escalated into riots and protests this summer. Homelessness has become an emergency issue, and there has been a noticeable heroin ‘epidemic’, especially within the homeless, since the 1980s. These more brutal and confronting problems show a stark contrast to the bougie boutique hotels in construction in South Dublin, the hipster coffee shops that charge €5 for a cappuccino and enormous housing developments popping up around Grand Canal Dock, conclusively pushing the poor and students out of the city and making room for rich expats. However way you look at these developments, it seems that the rich are getting richer and the poor remain the same. The years of the Celtic Tiger, of which Ireland saw rapid economic growth and a surge of luxury within the country, seem like another lifetime now.
The entire country of Ireland, not just Dublin, has seen a change in cultural and political identity in more recent times, especially within the lead up to Brexit; the question of a hard or soft border remains unanswered, and it is becoming clear that the overall knowledge is scarce of the implications on Ireland. Irish people are becoming angry – a decision that was not made by us will hurt our economy, our real wages and potentially our friendship with the UK. This anger is understandable, and dredges up historical feelings of being trodden under at the expense of the British. As Megan Nolan states in her article ‘I Didn’t Hate the English – Until Now’, she makes no apologies for relating historical abuses to current day dynamics – as it became painfully clear to her that many Britons did not understand why there may be some animosity towards them from Irish people. It angered people when Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has probably never set foot on the Irish border, proposed bringing back border checks ‘like we had during the Troubles’; when many who voted Leave laughed about ‘probably being entitled to an Irish passport’, and it exasperated us when the secretary of state for Northern Ireland didn’t know that Unionists wouldn’t vote for Nationalist parties. As time draws closer to the UK leaving the EU for good, the topic of the ‘Irish Question’ rings a sadly familiar bell. Not to mention that Northern Ireland – politically a part of the UK – voted to Remain during the referendum, a decision that leaves a melancholic yet ironic taste.
Despite the difficulties Ireland has faced in the past and what she is facing now, the actions and movements of the younger generation in recent years has shown me that we are stronger and more resilient than ever. It was the students, the angry, the fearful and the brave who spoke out against Ireland’s cruel abortion laws, who took to the streets, who went on strike and ended up sparking a movement that repealed the law once and for all. It became the first country to vote for the legalisation of gay marriage by popular vote. Who denounced the historic injustice of the Catholic Church and demanded the government take action and serve justice for those affected by it. It is this resilience and this hope that Irish people hold, despite centuries of injustice, that shows me that we will not just sit by and remain silent; instead, Irish people will continue to make their voices heard, whatever the cost.