Jude Collins

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Paul Ryan - one of our own, eh?

Paul Ryan.  You don’t get a name much more Irish than that. And by all accounts Ryan could be the kind of guy you’d have a pint with, go to Croke Park with – he’s a young guy proud of his Irish roots. His great-great-grandfather emigrated to America, with hundreds of thousands of others, to avoid the Irish Famine.

Or the Irish Great Hunger, to be more exact. Because it wasn’t just the failure of the potato crop that led to mass starvation.  It was deliberate policy. Charles Trevelyan, the British official in charge of famine relief, decided that “the cankerworm of government dependency” was a bad thing, and so starving people were required to pay for their food rather than be given it. The consequences were drastic – people died in their tens of thousands,  fled abroad on the coffin ships.

So a guy whose ancestors survived all that has to be given respect, right? And we Irish can have a sense of vicarious pride that one of our own, so to say, may be a heart-beat away from the presidency. I mean, he’s one of us, right?

Well he may be one of you but I want no part of him. Remember Trevelyan’s “cankerworm of government dependency”?  Well, it fits right in to Ryan’s thinking.  He’s completely opposed to Obama’s Medicare bill, which would  see to it that Americans were covered if they fell sick.  For Ryan,  it’s a question of "not lulling able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency, which drains them of their very will and incentive to make the most of their lives”.  In other words, no government hand-outs to a lot of able-bodied beggars.

Of course, Americans have been encouraged to think that way, and lots of them do. Ryan is very fond of Ayn Rand, whose novels laud market forces and the strong leader rather than compassion and democracy.  Likewise Sir Randoph Routh, who was in charge of the Irish Relief Commission in the nineteenth century, greeted representatives from Mayo, where people were dying in their thousands, by passing them a copy of Edmund Burke’s ‘Details of Society’  pamphlet.  It explained why it was better to allow the market to distribute food rather than governments.

It is always good to see an Irish person succeed, at home or abroad. And getting so close to the US presidency is no mean feat. But we’d be very stupid if we allowed our nationalist pride to blind us to the kind of man Paul Ryan is.  He would have fitted into British government policy for nineteenth-century Ireland with consummate ease.

1 comment:

  1. Robert Mansfield21 August 2012 at 22:32

    Jude, Paul Ryan's great-great grandfather fled Ireland to escape an Gorta Mór? Perhaps his great-great-great- grandfather was Cromwell. Too few Irish Americans have any sense of Irish history.Most today are as Irish as...well any Englishmen,i.e. not much.As a Chicago firefighter what I find disturbing about my ill informed Irish American co-workers is how much they identify with politicians like Ryan. They don't realize that his policies contradict our middle class lifestyle.There is very little, if any, empathy for people not as fortunate as ourselves.They see no corolation between their Irish ancestors and the downtrodden unfortunates we serve every day in the ghetto. My father once told me that his father, my grandfather, would spin in his grave if I was to vote Republican.Although I'm not happy with Obama, my Grandpa Joe will be able to rest peacefully this upcoming election.