Do We Live in a Classist Society?

A friend of mine recently asked me do I think that a class system exists in Ireland. She believed that such a system exists and being the contrarian that I am, half playing devils advocate and half disagreeing with her, I said that there does not.

The question really struck a cord with me and seemed pertinent given the events of the week of which
followed…

This was A week where Senator Lynn Ruane released her book “People Like Me”, telling her story about growing up in Tallaght. Also, statistics were released by the UNDP stating that Ireland was 4 th in the world on the Human Development Index. It was also a week dominated by the Take Back the City movement and all the stories regarding their recent protest.

It is only fair to state that without a doubt there exists a financial class difference in Ireland. A difference that exists in every country due to fundament economics. Some people earn more money, some people earn less. Therefore, I think about class more in terms of interaction. Class occurs because of segregation, because of boundaries.

During the week I watched the Stanley Kubrick epic “Barry Lyndon”. A film set in the 18 th century, in
which an Irish rogue endeavours to become a part of the British aristocracy.

This led me to think about Irelands own history. The foundations of Ireland came about through a rejection. A rejection of not only our occupiers but also everything they represented. To the founders of this state, this rejection and representation was to a system which is the pinnacle of a classist society: monarchy.

The founders in the creation of the Irish State were aware of what damage such a society inflicts. A society where Lords and Ladys, Barons and Baroness are above the common people. They afforded unequal opportunities in their favour due to their given title.

Irish independence progressed through culture and sport with an ethos that is in complete contrast to the one that was in place. The remnants of that ethos are still evident today. An example is the GAA, an institution of Irishness and an integral part of everyday society. An institution that brings together all kinds of people regardless of class. It contains parishes and catchment areas that create large communities going beyond just housing prices.

The foundations of Irish culture were tempered in a belief in equality and anti-classism. That belief existed because to be Irish meant to be at the bottom of a classist society and to be equally mistreated, fully aware of the unfairness of such a system.

In the interview launching her book with The Irish Times, Lynn Ruane, spoke about a speech she had
made on the subject of class “I’m talking about all my friends who are dead and how class is killing us
and the moral significance of class”.

In all goodwill I must disagree with Lynn Ruane. It is not class that is killing us in Ireland. Class is not the cause but a symptom of an unbalanced society. I do not believe, given the history of Ireland and its formation, the foundation of our society is classist. I do not think it is inherently classist.

However, I do agree wholeheartedly with Senator Lynn Ruane that something must change. Ireland is
a relatively young country. We have plenty of time to become that class society we rejected. That change is down to the Government of Ireland and its mandate. They must deliver policies to create an Ireland of Equal Opportunity and not an Ireland just for those “who get up early in the morning”.