The European Project

The ideal of a United States of Europe was born of a need to control the supply of Coal and Steel, used to make military weapons. The original name is ECSC or European Coal and Steel Community, and was the brainchild of French and German thinkers and leaders, Jean Monnet and Konrad Adenauer, who wanted to make sure there was never another World War. It tunrned out the Atom bomb became the real deterrent, but the ECSC moved in the direction of economic union.

When Ireland joined in 1972, our Western seaboard was one of the poorest parts of Europe, along with Greece and parts of the south of Italy. How things have changed for Ireland. Standards of living having soared and the country ranks high among the developed nations.

Brexit coincided with me leaving Ireland for another European country, Greece. The largest number of non Greeks here are British. Very few realised Ireland would not leave the EU when the UK left. It left me with a mixture of disbelief and some anger that our nearest neighbours, and the ones that felt inclined to travel, who you would think had more broadened minds, appreciated so little about British domination of Ireland.

I became a little notorious for saying ‘there’s no such thing as Southern Ireland ‘ when asked whether I was from Northern or Southern Ireland. Most people just thought I was mad, but some loved the idea of being challenged to think the thing through and enjoyed the banter. I have toned it down a bit now, and I’ve begun to see myself more as a European.

The body language of Ursula van den Leyn showing Boris where to stand – away from her -at the press conference when they failed to reach agreement, speaks volumes. It were as if she was dealing with a child who needed to be indulged, She was distancing herself from him in more ways than one. Britain will now be just another country, with no special status in Europe.

What is it in the British psyche that won’t allow it to be one of the lads? Why do they always have to be one cut above? It’s a trend that seems to be led from the higher echelons of society, not the man in the street, who it seems is sick of the idea of Brexit and feels conned. Their beloved holdays in Spain will never be the same. The dreams of a house on a Greek island take on a legion of difficulties and I haven’t met one Brit out here who wants to leave the Union. Most of them are trying to get Irish passports.

I’m very proud to be Irish. We tend to pick up the Greek language better, having learned a second language from our first day at school and this lends a strong sense of identity. It’s all made me feel incredibly lucky to be Irish and to be here. Or should I say to be European and to be here.

A Human Apology?

A glance, an incline of the head would do. A slight acknowledgement of his existence, would have made all the difference. Ivor’s wife is in the final stages of cancer through misdiagnosis by the State’s Health system. His children are at home, savouring every moment left to them with their beloved mother. He travelled alone to the court hearing to hear the Health Service’s apology to him and his family for their part in the indescribable grief inflicted on them.

At the end of his wretched journey to the State’s capital, he sat alone in the court. The judge and his registar sat on their elevated seats, the barristers sat facing the judge, busy solicitors concentrated on their papers or scrolled their phone screens.

The barrister adressed the court, bewigged and shrouded in a black cloak. ‘My client regrets the pain and suffering inflicted on the family. They wish to make a full and formal apology’ . His well- educated tones carried well in the courtroom. Then it was over.

They folded their files and left. Was that for me ? for my family ? Ivor thought. Is this what I travelled here for? To watch a costumed functionary deliver a form of words to a judge? Bewildered, he gathered his coat and made his way back to his car and retraced his steps homeward.

Later he got to tell his tale on national radio. How many others have gone through this dehumanising experience of being utterly ignored by a person so hardened to human suffering that to look you in the eye as you apologised would seem like a form of weakness? Regretably, this form of callousness is fostered and admired among the legal world. ‘Professionalism’ its called by some. But surely, part of professionalism is compassion.

Oscar Wilde, in ‘De Profundis’, describes how a man lifted his hat to him as he walked handcuffed between two policemen in to the bankruptcy court. ‘Men have gone to heaven for smaller things than that,’ is how he described this small gesture of humanity. He wrote heartwrenchingly about the depths of despair he suffered while in jail.;

‘ Prosperity, pleasure and success, may be rough of grain and common in fibre, but sorrow is the most sensitive of all created things.  There is nothing that stirs in the whole world of thought to which sorrow does not vibrate in terrible and exquisite pulsation.  The thin beaten-out leaf of tremulous gold that chronicles the direction of forces the eye cannot see is in comparison coarse.  It is a wound that bleeds when any hand but that of love touches it, and even then must bleed again, though not in pain.

Would that the ‘hand of love’ had touched Ivor, in our so-called enlightened age of kindness and compassion.