Is Ireland proud enough to confront some shameful realities?

Welcome to this week’s IT Sunday, a selection of the best Irish Times journalism for our subscribers.

As our “summer” wears on, events in the worlds of culture, sport and beyond have inspired some Irish Times writes to take a look at Ireland from several different perspectives.

In his column this weekend, Fintan O’Toole celebrates Druid’s recent staging of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars together with its companion pieces, The Shadow of a Gunman and Juno and the Paycock, at the Galway International Arts Festival (and coming soon to Belfast and Dublin).

The test of whether a nation is really proud of itself is whether or not it can bear to confront its own most shameful realities, he writes. Part of what makes Garry Hynes’ staging of the O’Casey trilogy so wonderfully vivid is that it reconnects us to the electric current generated by this apparent contradiction.

For O’Toole, the men in O’Casey’s great Dublin trilogy are, almost without exception, embodiments of national vanity: self-aggrandising but ultimately hollow. Fast-forward about a hundred years, and David McWilliams says Ireland has now set itself on a dangerous course, one which will potentially encourage a surge in support for far-right politics.

The combination of restrictive fiscal policy and high immigration increases the likelihood of a radical anti-migrant, nativist party, he writes. The parties of the centre are committed to sounding fiscally conservative, believing that restricting spending today makes tomorrow more secure. This is not the case. If we don’t spend faster than the population is increasing, our average citizen will become disgruntled. And disgruntled citizens tend to want to blame someone.

Ireland’s national team arrived home from the Women’s World Cup in Australia to crowds of 8,000 people on O’Connell Street on Thursday. The consensus is that it was a positive, solid campaign, a notable entry to the history books of Irish women’s soccer. Fans bought into the excitement, writes Louise Lawless, but, she asks, why didn’t the corporate world? Why is the penny still failing to drop for brands, advertisers and casual sports fans?

Speaking of world cups, Ireland play Italy this weekend in their first of three warm up matches in advance of September’s Rugby World Cup. Why so many warm up games? It is a legitimate question to ask, writes Matt Williams: “Is the risk of of injuries, which are inevitable in a high-intensity contact sport, worth the reward of providing game time for the team’s cohesion?”

Continuing the theme of embodiments of national vanity, Ross O’Carroll-Kelly remains more concerned with the fate of certain Dublin seagulls than the prospects for Andy Farrell’s men in the Aviva.

Other top stories on The Irish Times this weekend include:

  • Ireland’s best restaurant tables and how you can reserve one: Chefs, managers and owners choose their favourite restaurant table and explain what makes it so special.
  • Ask Roe: ‘The final straw came a couple of weeks ago. It was a Saturday morning and my fiancé and I had been in the kitchen together and started fooling around. Clothes were off and there was some action going on. Then his mother walked straight in the front door.’
  • Brianna Parkins: ‘Plenty-of-time to spare’ fetishists who arrive at their airport hours before they have to are selfish and clog it up for the rest of us

We also have Sean Moncrieff on O’Connell Street; Declan Burke on the best new crime fiction and Joanne Hunt on how to ease holiday anxiety.

In this week’s On the Money newsletter, Joanne Hunt explains why it might be time to press pause on your streaming subscriptions. “Vampire subscriptions” to the likes of Netflix and Disney+ can suck the cash out of unwary consumers’ accounts. Sign up here to receive the newsletter straight to your inbox every Friday.

As always, there is much more on, including rundowns of all the latest movies in our film reviews, tips for the best restaurants in our food section and all the latest in sport. There are plenty more articles exclusively available for Irish Times subscribers here.

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