Immediate and terrible economic collapse?

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Editorial, Issue 1(Jan/Feb 2012), Volume 20

In spite of severe ongoing cutbacks, not to mention a philistine and counterproductive proposal to amalgamate it with the National Library to save money, the National Archives scored another triumph recently with the launch of its on-line Treaty exhibition (, which includes not only the signed 1921 Treaty document itself (now available to the public for the first time) but also other related documents and drafts, cabinet minutes and other ephemera, including the expenses of delegates and staff (which might cause a few blushes among present-day politicians and higher civil servants). In launching the exhibition Taoiseach Enda Kenny joked that he hoped that the 2012 budget document then about to be unveiled would not have the same consequences as the treaty unveiled in 1921. And it was indeed poignant that the 90th anniversary of the Treaty coincided with the presentation of Michael Noonan’s budget on 6 December. In the bitter and divisive debate that followed (in 1921–2 that is, not 2011) much was made of the oath of allegiance (more correctly, ‘fidelity’) to the British monarch; less attention was paid to the British concession of fiscal autonomy. The oath is no longer with us; neither, unfortunately, is fiscal autonomy.In that regard a more disturbing parallel might be drawn with the ‘fiscal compact’ agreed by European leaders in Brussels a few days later. Were our leaders about to be bounced into another divisive treaty under the threat, to paraphrase David Lloyd George, of immediate and terrible economic collapse? At this stage it is not clear precisely what these changes will entail or even whether they will necessitate a referendum in Ireland. Rather alarmingly, there seems little enough in the proposals to deal with the immediate banking crisis—a bit like the architect who proposes extensive discussions on fire-prevention measures when the building is already ablaze!Already rumours are rife that the presses are rolling and that punts are being printed (just in case!). Let’s hope that there is more clarity by the time you read this—i.e. that you won’t be purchasing your copy of History Ireland with a barrow-load of worthless currency.


Tommy Graham


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