Wednesday 31 August 2022

Fintan OToole The known Unknowns, Edinburgh book festival 2022


Fintan OToole discussed his new book at the Edinburgh International Book festival – #edbookfest

We Don’t Know Ourselves, on Ireland from 1958, on Irish emigration at this time 50s and 60s when 3 in 5 would leave;


The need for change and the need to stay the same. He talked of the Seeds of change.


“In order for things to stay the same things must change.”

The knowing and not knowing…

O’Toole is one of the most creative and challenging commentators on current affairs today and he writes for the Irish Times. I highly recommend his book on Brexit Heroic Failure.


He discussed Ireland’s hundred years of independence since 1920 – and the Partition of Ireland into the more developed north and underdeveloped south. East Germany and Ireland lost most populations with young people leaving for better lives.

Sometimes we must gamble for transformation and economic change. 

He said that avoidance can be creative as we avoid reality. A surreal story.


Fintan spoke of the deeply rooted power structure of the church and state in Ireland. Catholicism and Nationalism, both were martyrs for Ireland, Ireland has now moved on. Back in the fifties the Troubles all seemed unreal and the IRA a joke. The peace story and dirty violence.


He spoke of the Drug crisis in Ireland, and the story of the Dunn brothers and the industrial schools. Fintan was the first in his family to go to university, and he spoke of class and access. The vicious repression and of how the state ignores reality. The Heroin epidemic, no one knew what it was.


The Church power melted away so fast. He joked that so many women in Ireland had menstrual problems – and used the Pill to help their menstrual cycle! The safety value was emigration. He spoke of the Irish absurdity, and hypocrisy. 


In the late 90s there emerged the Celtic Tiger, with its highly educated workforce. There was the foreign direct investment, the American base n Europe, Pharma, the European massive headquarters and different narratives, Nobody knows what the Irish GDP is  - the mystery of money! 

People came back, and they wanted change, Great writers came back. 

Questions – a United Ireland?

He said that Brexit day changed everything! They had had two generations of boredom – but Brexit raised all these existential questions. 


A survey found many would vote for a reunited Ireland.

But when asked, “Would you change anything? No.” - Irish double-ness in all its diversity!

UK breaks up at pace, and people aren’t really ready for it.  And different voices and diversity, 


“Not two becomes one, become stronger, and Unite in friendship and unity.” 

The genius of the Good Friday agreement is that “I can be both Irish and British, and you can choose.”  that people can be Irish and British, British or British and Irish.