Irish Examiner View: A last chance to step over our hateful past

Irish Examiner View: A last chance to step over our hateful past

Ambition is little more than the capacity to put conviction before doubt.

Some Irish people, but not all, are ambitious and resilient enough to ride the freely-offered naysayers’ scorn.

It may be difficult to prove in a way science might recognise but it seems a part of our culture that begrudgery-cum-fear can be as influential as the inspiring, uplifting, can-do spirit behind the great advances of our time.

This insecurity may shape the scale of our ambitions too.

In recent days a Dutch government scientist proposed two mammoth dams to contain the North Sea to try to protect around 25m Europeans from rising seas driven by climate change.

An Irish scientist might conceive an idea on that scale to protect the Irish cities — most of them — built on estuaries.

However, it is difficult to imagine that scale of idea, that rock-the-consensus concept might reach proposal document stage.

It might be seen, like a bridge between Scotland and the North, as too challenging.

That official Ireland clings to the half-cocked flood plans for Cork City when something long-term and in step with climate change science is needed confirms that paucity.

A week after our election it is probably time to consider the outcome so we might reach a conclusion about the level of ambition it demands from politicians and whether those ambitions are party or national.

One of the admirable characteristics of Sinn Féin is its relentless, 24/7, always awake ambition.

The party’s flamboyant but considered use of language has been part of this progression.

That continued yesterday when Eoin Ó Broin accused Fianna Fáil of “arrogance” and “recklessness” for refusing to talk to SF.

Mary Lou McDonald continued when she said they (FF and FG) were “insisting that they and they alone are allowed to hold power.”

This all sounds splendidly swashbuckling, like SF’s claim that it won the election, but it does not bear scrutiny; the figures simply do not stack up and figures are the compass of our democracy. If they are ignored we do not have a democracy. SF won roughly a quarter of the vote as did two other parties.

It matters not one whit that FG and FF are, rightly, greatly diminished, what matters is how the numbers play out.

In a country with layer upon layer of political baggage it requires disinterested ambition, almost a sense of duty, to see beyond the limits of failed tribalism, the kind reflected yesterday by FF’s Éamon Ó Cuív when he warned that he and “significant people” in the party are opposed to coalition with Fine Gael and the Green Party.

The value of that argument from the long ago is made irrelevant by the figures.

These issues will dominate political life for the immediate future, maybe longer. No matter how long they take one truth will stand — the result does not oblige FF and FG to concede to SF.

Rather, the figures oblige them to find the ambition to finally step over our past and work together. This might give them a badly needed last-throw-of-the-dice chance to redeem themselves.

If they choose not to do that and represent the half of the electorate who voted for them then SF will have earned the right and probably the figures in a then inevitable second 2020 election to try to make their ambitions real.

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