Category: Archive

Editorial Helping the little guy

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Given its history, Ireland knows well enough that the world can be a rough place for the little guy. Ireland, the Republic part of it, is no longer quite the little guy, however. Small in geographic area, yes, not exactly a military powerhouse, sure. But the mouse that became the Celtic Tiger does have a degree of clout that belies its lack of land mass, or absolute shortage of ICBMs. Quite simply, it’s difficult to shout down a country that speaks from bitter experience, a nation that has struggled and survived under the heel of a big guy’s colonial boot.

OK, you can probably ignore a small nation’s earnest pleas, especially if it’s a long way from your own backyard. Indonesia, with more than 100 million people, need not fear Ireland’s wrath in a physical sense. But in a world that seems to be getting smaller by the minute, a world where genocide, or just plain murder, should be everybody’s concern, words spoken loudly and effectively can hurt, can embarrass, or even force change from afar.

In the case of East Timor, a little guy that would prefer Indonesia as a neighbor rather than a colonizer, the role of Ireland for a number of years now has been that of the little guy helping the even smaller guy, all much to the annoyance of the Indonesian government. A few years ago, then Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring almost came to blows with the Indonesian foreign minister at the United Nations. Spring was merely projecting the European Union’s view on East Timor. But it was laced with an extra Irish dig or two, a few choice words about little guys and big bullies. Spring’s successor, David Andrews, is now the EU’s special representative on East Timor. Jakarta must be sick of Irish accents. It’s hearing Mary Robinson’s too. The UN high commissioner for Human Rights was there the other day talking about war crimes and the Indonesian army, a force that seems more concerned with the style of its sunglasses than the lives of innocent people.

Ireland may be a neutral country in military terms. But it isn’t, thankfully, acting like a morally neutered one. By no means perfect itself, it at least is prepared to bear witness to gross inhumanity, however remote it might appear to be on this blood-stained earth of ours.

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