Tuesday, February 14, 2023

A Day in the Life of my Almost-Ideal Ireland

This morning I had an idea while praying my rosary, and ideas that come to me while I'm praying the rosary are usually good ones. I would write an account of life in my ideal Ireland, from the perspective of one person.

Or rather, my almost-ideal Ireland. In a really ideal world, nothing bad would ever happen, and reality would be entirely in conformity to one's wishes. This seems impossible and also, strangely, unsatisfying. So this is my almost-ideal Ireland.

This St. Patrick's Day will be the eightieth anniversary of De Valera's "the Ireland that we dreamed of" speech, often dismissed as "the comely maidens dancing at the crossroads" speech-- though he never mentioned crossroads or dancing.

After decades of derision, the speech has been hailed as a noble vision more recently, even by liberal commentators. So this seems an opportune time to summon up an ideal Ireland, or an almost-ideal Ireland.

I will call my character Fintan. He lives in Rathfarnham in Dublin.

Fintan wakes up at 6:00 a.m. on the 6th of October, 2033. He's a young man, in his early twenties.

He's woken by his radio alarm, which is set to RTÉ Radio 3, a relatively new station. At 6:00 a.m., it plays the Angelus, followed by the National Anthem. Fintan always tries to pray along with the Angelus and stand for the National Anthem, but sometimes he's too groggy to do either.

At 6:02, in between his shower and the rest of his morning routine, he listens to Plé (pronounced "play"), the morning show on Radio 3. Although the title is in Irish, the station is mostly in English. Today it's a discussion of the legacy of Charles Stewart Parnell, the Irish political leader of the late nineteenth century. For today is Ivy Day, a commemoration of Parnell which had been long neglected but has recently been revived-- a pattern for many old commemorations and holidays, and which may have begun with the St. Bridget's Day public holiday introduced in 2023.

He has a cup of coffee and his morning porridge, enjoying the sober and calm discussion on the radio.

Sometimes he listens to Radio Na Gaeltachta. Fintan is not fluent in Irish, but-- like the rest of the country, it seems-- he's doing his best to learn it. He can now follow most of the shows on RnaG, if the speakers aren't talking too quickly.

He leaves the house, and makes his way to the newly-built St. John Sullivan chapel a short walk from his house. It's a small, plain church, with a statue of the recently-canonized Fr. John Sullivan in a recess. A Jamaican priest performs the morning liturgy. Although the vocations crisis has begun to level out, and this year there were twenty seminarians in the Dublin Diocese, it's now more common to see an African or Asian priest in an Irish pulpit than an Irish one. Every day Fintan prays for new vocations.

Fr. Jamoi preaches on the upcoming abortion referendum, in which the proposal is for a new constitutional amendment on abortion. The campaign is a heated one, but it looks as though the referendum will past. Ever since the overturning of Roe vs. Wade in 2022, the prolife movement has had a string of victories worldwide, gathering support not only from conservatives and religious people but even from many on the left. As soon as the Aontú-Fianna Fáil coalition came into power last year, they announced the referendum.

Fr. Jamoi calls for charity and temperance in the debate, and urges the congregation not to forget prayer as the most important weapon. He reads a special referendum message from Pope John Paul III, the newly-ordained Pope who has begun to heal the divide between liberals and conservative in the Church.

After Mass, Fintan walks to work in the local Luach supermarket, where he's a floor manager.

Luach is an Irish supermarket chain that opened in 2030 and now has fifteen locations worldwide. It has won praise for its subdued lighting, tasteful music (much of it Irish), and even for having occasional poems recited over the public address system.

Fintan doesn't love his job, but he doesn't hate it. One of the innovations of Luach was to be more community-oriented, and he enjoys the regular community events which the supermarket holds-- several a week, usually. Today, there is an exhibition of local painters, in the purpose-built events area beside the bakery. "Supermarkets with soul" are an international movement, which begun in Canada some years ago. There's now a single self-service checkout, while there are seven manned checkouts.

At lunch-break, he goes to the local café, Kennedy's, which has replaced the Starbucks which was there until recently. International franchises like Starbucks and MacDonald's have suffered in recent years, casualties of consumer backlash against huge corporations. In all honesty, Fintan rather misses the Starbuck's, although Kennedy's is a perfectly good substitute. He has a club sandwich and coffee, and chats to his colleague Angad. Angad is an Indian, a devout Sikh. They rarely discuss religion, but today they have a cordial discussion on the matter.

Immigration has been significantly reduced in Ireland in the last five years, but relations between the sizeable groups of ethnic minorities, and the indigenous majority, are good. Many of the immigrants are just as enthusiastic about what's been called the Second Gaelic Revival as are the native Irish.

After work, Fintan gets a bus and heads into the city centre. Having forgotten to take a book, he asks the bus conductor (conductors were re-introduced several years ago) for a headset and listens to Raidio Taistil, the in-journey radio station for all of Ireland's public transport. Right now there's a book show, discussing a new book on prehistoric man.

The roads are a lot less busy since the huge expansion of public transport, which started in 2025. Fintan remembers the days when it took two hours to get through Dublin city centre. Those days are long gone.

He gets off in the city centre, and walks to the Cromlech Theatre in Capel Street. Built in 2030, it's a small cinema, theatre, and lecture hall, and he's a regular visitor.

Tonight there's a panel discussion on the subject of George Orwell and his legacy. It lasts two hours and Fintan is only bored a couple of times. Afterwards, there are drinks in the bar, and he runs into his friend Fiona. They head to Nealon's down the road and have a few drinks, mostly talking about Orwell and other writers. They even speak in Irish for a half-hour. It's not the only Irish-language conversation in the pub. They have a dinner of smoked salmon and chips.

They walk together on the bus-stop, and Fintan gets the bus home, listening to Raidio Taistil again-- a current affairs show, this time. The subject is identity politics in universities. Students have begun to push back against the "tenured radicals" in the universities, who are inevitably screaming censorship and intimidation. There have been calls on the Minister of Education to take action against the academic purveyors of identity politics, but she insists that academic freedom is sacred.

Fintan goes straight to bed, but lies awake for a long time, reading old movie magazines. He finally falls asleep listening to three drunks in the street outside singing "The Star of the County Down".