Why the negative is positive for (Eire) Ireland

George picked up on a survey last week that made Ireland the third proudest nation in the world, after the United States and a Chavez led Venezuela. But it seems Ruth Dudley Edwards has some of the .some of the detail the first report lacked. For those of you struggling with the Sindo’s registration system, it’s worth replicating in full below. In essence, she contrasts this year’s readings with those of five years ago and reckons that growing uncertainty is a positive measure of the Republic’s democratic credentials.By Ruth Dudley Edwards

THE countries most proud of themselves are ex-colonies and new nations, and we’re nearly at the top, we were told last week by the National Opinion Research Centre at the University of Chicago. Here goes the list of the top 10 out of the 34 countries surveyed: the United States, Venezuela, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, Canada, the Philippines, Austria, New Zealand and Chile.

These are serious researchers, so we should take this seriously. And, it seems to me, having looked at the evidence up, down and sideways, we have reasons to be cheerful.

What makes this survey particularly interesting is that the questions asked were specific and those being sampled were a proper sample. This wasn’t 10 persons in a pub in a good mood being asked if they were proud to be Irish/ Slovakian/etc: it was a serious cross-section of populations being quizzed about questions that required thought. It was not “Hey, does it feel great to be Irish or what?”. It was questions like “Are you proud of your country’s social security system?”

So, here are the questions and this is how we answered on the specifics. Warning: Bertie will claim credit for our happy condition, but his opponents should check the small print. These Chicago people asked the same hard questions five years ago. Watch out for the brackets which tell what we thought then and why we’re less upbeat now. But do not throw the paper away from you now on the grounds that I’m being negative about our great little nation. This time, I think the negative is the positive.

How proud are you of your country in each of the following areas was what was asked.

The first thing you need to know is that Venezuela was not even polled in the last survey, but has now elbowed us out of second place because it has a charismatic on-his-way-to-being-absolute-dictator Hugo Chavez. He talks the talk, but dictators don’t walk the walk, so it will end in tears. But just for now, they’re ahead of us in self-confidence.

Back to basics. We are a cheerful ex-colony and Bertie A, and even Michael McD, will not be taking absolute power, for our political culture will not allow it. Like most of the other countries in the top 10, we have reasons for thanking the Brits for leaving us a robust democracy. We should also praise ourselves for entrenching it. Eamon de Valera was not Robert Mugabe.

How proud are we of how our democracy works? Twelfth (5th) in the survey. How proud are you of your country’s political influence in the world? Fifth (3rd). Of your country’s economic achievement? Second (3rd). Its social security system? Ninth (5th). Its scientific and technological achievement? Fourteenth (11th). Its sporting achievements? Fourth (1st). Its achievements in arts and literature? Second (1st). Its armed forces? Seventh (3rd). Its history? Sixth (1st). Its fair and equal treatment of all groups in society? Eighth (1st).

What these figures tell me is that we are a steadily maturing society. Last time round, when the researchers recorded our only minority as Protestants, we thought we were top of the equality pops. Now, with Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians and Nigerians, we realise there’s more to equality and fairness than rhetoric, and coping decently with immigrants is difficult, so we’re more realistic and hence more modest about what we’re up to.

What fit of adolescence (we’re-the-best-team-in-the-land carry-on) had us the proudest sporting nation in the world five years ago? Our history? Of what were we so proud to arrive at the top of the poll? Did we fight the Nazis? No. Five years on, we have a saner perspective.

We are the most optimistic and proud nation in Western Europe. Poor old Britain – at 11th place in this survey – is our nearest challenger, with respectively (for pride in democracy) eleventh (10th), (political influence) eleventh (9th), (the economy) thirteenth (7th), (social security) eighteenth (12th), (science and technology) twelfth (5th), (sport) twenty-eighth (18th), (arts/literature) twenty-first (15th), (armed forces) third (2nd), (history) eighth (4th) and (fairness and equality) twelfth (8th).

Great Britain, in which I live, is tired, jaundiced and underrates itself. Ireland, my country, is buoyant and self-confident. But what five years ago was bravado, is becoming much more tethered to reality. Unlike Venezuela, which is being hoodwinked by a confidence-trickster who will probably ruin its economy, Ireland has politicians who are too trammelled to hold us back. Let us be cheerful. We’re doing well. And we’re a new nation that is growing up.

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  • Holt

    “THE countries most proud of themselves are ex-colonies and new nations, and we’re nearly at the top,”

    Perhaps she has done it before but Ruth D E using the pronoun “we” when referring to Eire Ireland struck me as a bit unusual.

  • Keith M

    Holt, RDE was born and educated in Dublin and I believe travels under an Irish passport. The fact that she’s prepard to challenge the status quo and the typical Irish mindset does not stop her being Irish.

    I have to say that this article would echo my sentiments pretty accuratly. “Like most of the other countries in the top 10, we have reasons for thanking the Brits for leaving us a robust democracy. We should also praise ourselves for entrenching it. Eamon de Valera was not Robert Mugabe.” says it all.

  • Todd

    I don’t regard RDE as being Irish simply a West Brit, like someone else on this site.

  • Mick Fealty

    Anyone interested in playing the ball? This seems to be a useful contribution to that conversation Bertie was calling for.

    Picking the substance of Todd’s contribution up, what is the difference between a west Brit and Irish? Are they mutually exclusive? Is it not possible to be Irish and something else in the sense that the US readily accepts hyphenated identities, like Irish American?

  • smcgiff

    ‘Is it not possible to be Irish and something else in the sense that the US readily accepts hyphenated identities, like Irish American?’

    Not so sure the Americans would be so accommodating of a hyphenate if they maintained the other country as being far superior. Just saying, loike!

  • Keith M

    smcgiff : “Not so sure the Americans would be so accommodating of a hyphenate if they maintained the other country as being far superior.”

    Did you not have the patience to get to the end of the article? RDE : “Great Britain, in which I live, is tired, jaundiced and underrates itself. Ireland, my country, is buoyant and self-confident.”

    If people are not prepared to accept people like RDE as being Irish, there is not the remotest chance of unionists ever being seen as Irish. It’s amazing that these people who supposedly aspire to a “united Ireland”.

  • Todd

    Some people might not find it an insult being refered to a West Brit at all.
    They usually aren’t Brits at all, but Irish and almost always more hated than the aul enemy themselves.

  • Mick Fealty

    Can I draw you out further on this:

    “…almost always more hated than the aul enemy themselves”

  • Harry

    A west-brit is someone who thinks of Ireland as somehow West Britain, whose view onto the world passes through Heathrow and who believes they are the more cosmopolitan for that, who believes that we have a great deal more in common that unites us with britain than divides us, who thinks for example that we should be thankful to the british for the institutions they left us…

  • smcgiff

    KeithM,

    Was speaking generally and not specifically.

  • smcgiff

    ‘who believes that we have a great deal more in common that unites us with britain than divides us’

    Maybe so, Harry, but it wouldn’t be conclusive. I wouldn’t consider myself in the least a ‘West Brit’ but would believe we have more in common with Britain than that which divides us.

  • Shuggie McSporran

    Keith M

    “If people are not prepared to accept people like RDE as being Irish, there is not the remotest chance of unionists ever being seen as Irish”.

    So what? A lot of unionists don’t consider themselves Irish anyway.

  • Todd

    Are you serious Mick?

    Ok I think it changes as you go around the country, but where I grew up, Galway.

    Here it almost always goes back to the WOI.
    A West Brit is someone who has gone a bit further down the road than your avg free stater (nowadays FG voter) and embraced some sort of link with the UK.

    I could go on but I’ll see where this thread leads first if anywhere!

  • smcgiff

    WOI?!? Giz a break!

    Do you think your average Dubliner (greater % of West Brits) gives two *Beep*s about the WOI?

  • michael

    we obviously have more in common with britian than devides us!

    duh!

  • Todd

    S, I don’t think you’re the avg Dub, and if they are West Brits why would they care. They may want to hide some ancestors shameful past mind…

    btw We learned about the WOI in Leaving cert History, so if you didn’t study History for the Leaving, you wouldn’t really know what happened. Not sure what they do nowadays in schools.