Dublin, 2035. 8.00am. Awoken by the built-in alarm in his iBuddy, a bleary-eyed and hungover Liam considers rolling over and sleeping until his preferred hour of midday, but remembers he can’t afford to miss any more of his 9 o’clock Europe tutorials. After the boom decade of the “twenties of plenty” the Dole pays out fairly well now, but the folks would still disown him if he got kicked out of college. Plus, he figures a degree would drastically improve the chances of his European work permit application being accepted and he’s probably right.
He claps the TV into action, and is just in time to catch the end of the headlines on Sky. The European Federation is still at war with Iran although, despite the grim-faced images of the aging President Barroso that flash across the screen, it appears to have been a relatively calm night of combat. About time they laid off for a while, reflects Liam, sure isn’t Paris still trying to come to terms with the bombing they suffered back in February? The City of Lights will soon be the City of the Shiites if General Ahmadinejad gets his way.
After storing this observation away for future (and more public) use, he rolls out of bed and starts making some breakfast, all the while thinking how lucky he is that Ireland got out of Europe when it did, and that it’s not him risking his neck in some Middle Eastern desert. No, on the contrary, life is good here in Ireland. Apart from the obvious benefit of not being involved in what is increasingly being seen as World War 3, the economy is thriving; the abolition of corporation tax by the Labour government in 2018 and the filial trading arrangement with fellow Europe deserter Britain continue to ensure this unprecedented prosperity.
Immigration is also almost non-existent, as Liam notes when he stops for a Starbucks on his way into Trinity that is served to him by the smiling Deirdre. He finds it hard to believe his parents’ stories that 30 years previous you couldn’t move in Ireland without bumping into a Pole. That all changed when we rejected Lisbon for the second time in 2009 and were politely asked to leave the EU – Ireland said ok and politely asked all the immigrants and asylum seekers in the country to go home. And although it’s true that you reap what you sow, and that nowadays it’s virtually impossible to get your hands on a holiday visa to Spain or France, who needs one when Ryanair can fly you to New York and back for less than a hundred punts now?
As if to prove this point, yet another group of American tourists emerge from the metro station in Stephen’s Green, complete with luggage and ridiculous singing green hats. A return to a more nationalist and traditional Ireland during the last several decades has resulted in a boom in the tourism sector with American, Japanese and an increasing number of Indian tourists visiting the “beautiful Emerald Isle” in droves. “Dia duit, cá bhfuil an óstán?” he overhears one of the Yanks addressing an unsuspecting Garda with typical brashness. Liam cringes at the lousy accent but once again remarks on the incredible revival of Irish that has resulted in a worldwide interest in the language. In fact, an article he read recently online mentioned that Gaelscoileanna now outnumber English-speaking primary schools by almost two to one in Ireland. In less than a few decades we’ll have converted ourselves into a bilingual nation, he ponders. Dochreidte.
He cringes again as he walks past the nasally assaulting scent of the daily fish market on the pedestrianised College Green. Another welcome result of independence from Europe has been the abolition of the fishing quotas and, although the government is still careful to ensure that resources are not threatened by over-fishing, the industry has boomed.
Ports from Killybegs to Kilmore Quay are once again thriving and Liam makes a mental resolution to stop by the fish supermarket on Pádraig Harrington Street to pick up his dinner on the way home later. “Don’t cod yourself with imported meats – give Irish fish a plaice in your sole tonight”, one of the revolving electronic billboards on Dame Street tells him as he cringes for a third time, this time at the infectious cheesiness of the ad.
He hurries through the metal detector over Front Arch without incident and joins the throng of students milling through Front Square. He barges his way towards the Arts Block, conscious of the “late fine” of 1£N that was introduced by the previous Provost and that is still in place. A glance at his watch tells him that it’s 08.56.
Should be grand. He mutters a jaded greeting to his classmates, all visibly as worse for wear as himself after the shenanigans of the night before in the student centre.
They all roar with laughter when Liam reminds them of how they had pissed on the statue of Bertie Ahern near Merrion Square on their way home, and they continue trading stories of forgotten drunken mischief until the European tutorial teacher enters at nine on the dot. “Good morning, people,” she says, “today I want us to discuss what Ireland might be like in 2035 had it ratified the Lisbon Treaty of 2009…”