Colm O'Doherty: Last week the Irish Times carried two stories which when examined together provide an instructive commentary on contemporary Irish citizenship. On November 25th (the day after the Public Sector strike) we were informed by the Times that Hordes of Southern Shoppers had invaded (sic) Newry, and on the 28th November we learned that Up to 6000 Irish investors were wooed (sic) by the desert state of Dubai.
The Newry story was heavily freighted with images of irresponsible citizens (hordes, invading), lacking in patriotism, engaging in abnormal and un-natural activities. The tone of the Dubai story was measured and represented the investors as victims – kids in a sweet shop, innocents abroad.
The bad shoppers in Newry were represented as amoral deviants – refusing to play by the rules. What these two stories highlight is the manner in which citizenship is now defined. An understanding of Gramsci’s concept of hegemony is essential to this analysis. Maintaining power by persuading people that dominant attitudes are common sense is the hallmark of governing citizens. So shopping in Dubai for personal benefit – to the tune of approximately 600 million Euro - is legitimate and patriotic, while shopping in Newry for basic items such as food and consumer durables is a betrayal and unpatriotic.
Irish entitled citizens – bankers, investors, entrepreneurs - are encouraged to shop for property across the globe, but Newry is off limits to citizen consumers, particularly the treasonous public sector who dared to take industrial action and shop outside the state. There is clearly a political agenda here. and it is really worrying that the Irish Times, in its biased reporting, appears to be complicit in this manufactured moral panic.
In this regard the Times is supporting the dominant economic classes who harness the state’s autonomous power but are not subordinated to it. This alliance allows them to operate freely within the Irish state and between states. Meanwhile, the consumer class are disciplined for their moral treason in venturing beyond their compliant worker roles and legitimate designated shopping perimeters.
Colm O’Doherty is lecturer in the Dept of Applied Social Studies, IT Tralee. A qualified social worker with extensive practice experience, he has researched and published in the areas of social policy, child protection, domestic violence, community development, social work, family support and parenting. He is the author of A New Agenda for Family Support, Providing Services That Create Social Capital (2007) and co-editor of Community Development in Ireland: Theory, Policy and Practice (2012) and Learning on the Job: Parenting in Modern Ireland (2015). He holds a PhD from UCD.