We now all know that the Republic of Ireland’s women’s team players were filmed chanting (what is widely understood as) an IRA song. Before, during, and even after the Football Association of Ireland issued its apology on behalf of those players, the great and the good were heard saying the problem was “education.” In other words, these young adults were too young to remember what the IRA had done, and to whom, and Irish schools and wider society had failed to teach them. The great and the good were correct—but not in the way they meant.
The problem is not an absence of teaching. The problem is what their betters choose to teach.
Every year the European Parliament determines the winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Who was Andrei Sakharov? Andrei Sakharov devoted the major part of his professional life towards developing advanced atomic weapons for the former Soviet Union. He did this work under Stalin and under his successors. Sakharov’s work made it more difficult for the United States and the world’s other democracies to press for human rights reforms in the Soviet Union and the countries within its orbit—just as his work made it easier for the Soviet Union to threaten its neighbours and the other countries of the world. The nuclear weapons in Russia today which threaten Ukraine and all of Europe—who do you think made those weapons? When Andrei Sakharov has a European Union prize named after him—then lessons will be learned.
Nearer to home, Ireland issued a Che Guevara stamp on the 50th anniversary of that terrorist’s death. Similarly, President Higgins eulogized Fidel Castro—a dictator so brutal that hundreds of thousands sought escape in rickety boats on the Atlantic. When Guevara and Castro are honoured and eulogized—then lessons will be learned.
The problem is not that the system failed to teach these young people; the problem is what they were taught—in school and out of it. The problem is not that they failed to learn what was taught, but that they learned it all too well. If a society’s senior elected officials and other elites teach that Sakharov, Guevara, and Castro deserve admiration, and those elites teach this lesson repeatedly, in public, and in planned events, then why object when young athletes, in a one-off, private, and impromptu event, do much the same? The athletes were just doing what they were taught to do—at every step of the way.
Seth Barrett Tillman, ‘“Educating” the Irish Football Athletes,’ New Reform Club (Oct. 16, 2022, 9:25 AM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2022/10/educating-irish-football-athletes.html>;