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Defining Participation and Practice – Policy Perspectives panel. Seated left to right: Martin Drury, Pat Cooke, Fiona Kearney (Chair), Marian Fitzgibbon, Pauline Conroy.

Defining Participation and Practice - Policy Perspectives
Presentation for CREATE, Arts and Civil Society Symposium 20/21 October 2011

Marian Fitzgibbon
Head of School of Humanities, Athlone Institute of Technology

 

Ill fares the land
To hastening ills a prey
Where wealth accumulates
And men decay.

So said Oliver Goldsmith in 1770. I am indebted to the late historian, Tony Judt, for an informed overview of where we in Ireland stand at the moment. How appropriate and poignant both that his excoriating account of greed takes its title – Ill Fares the Land – from the work of an Irish poet! I am also indebted to him for the solace he affords us all in a time of undisputed crisis. 
In a masterful sweep through the recent economic history of the western world, Prof Judt offers a trenchant insight into the current state of world affairs and relegates three countries in particular - the US, the UK and Ireland - to a group that exemplifies the ugliest sides of contemporary Western society. 

To me it was revealing and somewhat shocking to realise the extent to which Ireland, along with the UK and US, are out of kilter with the rest of the first world.  We are so distinguished by the degree of adulation we have afforded to the market and the contempt we have shown for the public space. 

In Judt’s words, this club of three countries is the one (and I quote) “in which the dogma of unregulated self-interest was most assiduously applied to public policy” (Judt, 2010a; p.16). We bought the profit motive hook, line and sinker. The results are plain to see: relative to the rest of the western world, we are now in a highly unequal country. This has pervasive consequences - for health, education, social justice, life chances, mobility, length of life, school drop-out rates, mental illness, literacy, criminality, public transport, obesity. And of course for the arts.

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