The Republic of Ireland, which declared itself in 1949, allowed the Catholic Church to dominate its civil society and education system. Investment by American and European companies, and a welcoming tax regime, created the 'Celtic Tiger' of the 1990s. That brief burst of good fortune was destroyed by a corrupt political class which encouraged a wild property boom, leaving the country almost bankrupt. What Ireland needs now is a programme of real change. It needs to become a fully modern republic in fact as well as name. Politicians have been let get away with murder, and there is a fatalistic sense that nothing can change. The country needs to encourage participation in, and oversight and knowledge of politics, to make people feel that they have a right to challenge the old party machines and to make a difference. It is their country, after all.

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