Thursday, June 19, 2008

Go, Green

It'd be absolutely an outrage that in an international agreement, in which it was clearly understood that everyone must ratify per their procedures, that any member state would be so bullied.
~ EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy

It made my Irish eyes smile when Ireland stood up to the EU on the matter of the Lisbon treaty.

The Irish said no, EU, you can't take away our right to vote as stated in our national constitution. You can't tell us what our laws will be. You can't set the rules inside our borders. As one waving protestor's placard read, "No Foreign Rule!"

Ireland has had more than her share of foreign interference on her soil. She fought England for hundreds of grim and bloody years to win independence, so freedom is not something the Irish people would take lightly.

Most of us have heard of the famous potato famine of the mid-1800s that sparked a massive exodus out of Ireland to North America. Millions of Irish citizens immigrated to America, but an estimated three million others died. The sterile and tidy descriptions of the four-year famine never include the gruesome details. Cecil Woodham-Smith's masterpiece, The Great Hunger, is the definitive history of that time in Ireland.

The book is not for the faint of heart. An Gorta Mór (Gaelic for the Great Hunger) makes the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina look like a trip to Disneyland. In the Ireland of 1846-49, thousands of entire families died of slow starvation, their mouths stained green from eating grass trying to survive. Enslaved within their own country by the British, they died by the roadside or in ditches because they had been turned out of their mud-hut homes and tiny plots of land by the foreign landlords who could not collect crops as rent payments.

The popular economic principle of laissez-faire was the prevailing philosophy of British Treasury Secretary Trevelyan, the English official appointed to oversee starving Ireland. Trevelyan stated that the great moral evil in Ireland was not the famine, but rather the "selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people." In fact, Trevelyan refused expenditures on the problem, preferring to let the Irish starve to death; he believed the famine was a blessing in disguise to reduce the population of Ireland.

Not exactly the type of chap who would be directing Meals on Wheels. In the midst of the famine, Trevelyan was knighted for his work in Ireland. Times were quite different then.

It's a dramatic example from a century and a half ago, but national traumas of such magnitude leave their mark upon a native people's soul and identity (witness our U.S. Civil War and its lingering after-effects).

Good luck with your expanding-powers treaty, EU. Ireland has stood her dearly-won ground. Get used to it.