In recent times, it has become standard to hint that various elites are making decisions against the wills of the great majority of Irish people. Thinking about this, and using “elite” to mean a relatively small self-selecting group of people outside of prevailing mainstream opinion at the time, I have tried to compile a list of policies or actions forced by an elite on the Irish people.
1. The 1916 Rising. The ultimate example of an elite forcing its view upon the majority? Of course, the Irish people did ultimately endorse the view, but that was after the event. The men and women of the Rising believed that in later years, when they understood what they had done and why, the people would thank them, surely the ultimate elite defence?
2. Equal pay for women, a policy pushed primarily by the small Labour party against much grumbling from FF and FG, the parties who represented the great majority.
3. Sex discrimination legislation. People forget this, but there was once a time when it was acceptable for politicians to claim that letting women work was depriving “a good man” of a job, and that action was an injustice.
4. The availability of contraception.
5. The availability of divorce. Throughout the 1970s, even the Labour party was weary of touching this.
6. The abolition of articles two and three and the recognition of the right of the majority in the North of Ireland to decide their own future. When I was in the PDs, people in Ogra Fianna Fail used to attack us for being elitist West Brits particularly for this policy. Where are they now, eh?
7. Planning corruption in Ireland. Throughout the 1980s, the political establishment dismissed those concerned about planning irregularities in Dublin County Council as cranks and eccentrics who did not understand what “real” politics was about. Think they ever dreamed that Fianna Fail would one day move to expel its most successful leader since Dev?
8. And now we are onto same sex marriage, which we are told is an obsession of a metropolitan liberal elite. In the 1960s, when the Race Relations Act in the UK banned signs saying things like “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish”, we were told that this was the action of an out-of-touch liberal elite. Those critics are very quiet today.
9. The EEC, which was a project devised by a political elite over the heads of the French and German people who despised each other. Certainly, if the non-German peoples had their say, they would probably have devised a treaty not as close to the treaty of Rome, but that of Versailles. I wonder how that would have worked out?
10. Domestic violence and rape within marriage were once “family problems” to be ignored by society, with radical feminist liberals sticking their noses in, not “understanding” that this is the way ordinary people live.
In times past, an enlightened elite argued that dunking women to see if they were witches was ridiculous. Radical abolitionists tried to force their elitist views about property on the white slave owners of the United States. In South Africa, an out of touch liberal elite argued against apartheid. In the US, an out of touch Eastern liberal elite argued against the majority of voters in Alabama and Mississippi and elsewhere on segregation.
Guess what: the elite were right. They’re not always right. The supporters of Eugenics certainly weren’t. But just because an idea is not of the mainstream, that does not mean it is wrong.