Sunday evening. I’m waiting, along with the rest of Ireland, to learn the results of the Greek referendum. RTE1 has been making hourly announcements all day about what time the earliest prognostications will be available (7pm Irish time) and what time the results are expected (two hours later). With no TV or internet, I have a timer set so I don’t miss the radio broadcasts. The headline in this morning’s Irish Times says, ‘Greek troops prepare for street battles,’ and the front-page photo is a Greek expatriate woman from Dublin wrapped in a Greek flag and with an Irish flag behind her. At last report the no vote was slightly ahead, but a yes vote (which would have the Greeks accept the stringent rules of the European bailout) has been predicted all week.
The Irish have been perhaps the most interested country in the EU in this referendum. It was the Irish, after all, who accepted the austerity conditions of their own bailout and are still waiting to see if that decision was the right one. I’m not sure about this, but I suspect that for at least some Irish a Greek no vote would feel to them like they themselves had caved in too easily. This is a nation, after all, which is less than a hundred years old and whose citizens have a powerful awareness of both their centuries of obeisance to the British and the brashness of their revolution. Since the 1916 Rising —hugely brave but failed—is being considered very closely in preparation for a centenary next year, the country is in the throes of historical examination and a renewed sense of pride in its republicanism. I think that the Irish are seeing the Greek vote as something of a referendum on their own docility, and are wondering a bit about how they got from 1916 to now.
The Greeks voted overwhelmingly—by 61%—no. Now the whole EU is collectively jumping off a cliff.