IF the Irish State is going to learn from the mistakes of others, it would be a start if its political elite read the newspapers. Take, for example, on a major issue of our time, recent statements by President Mary McAleese and Peter Sutherland.
She would not be happy, said President McAleese, "with a great debate about multiculturalism versus integration" in Ireland. It would be "dreadful" if Ireland, "with such a historical experience of cultural imperialism", tried "to impose those shapes on others here".
"We [the Irish] have to adapt our sense of nationality, which we all feel so proud of," said Sutherland (currently the UN's special representative on migration), "and have to recognise that multiculturalism is part of the future."
Where have these two been during the past few years? Sure, we're new to mass immigration, but already the important debate in Ireland is not between those who want to hold on to the monoculture of the past and those who want multiculturalism. There are few people in Ireland who demand that immigrants convert to Catholicism, eat bacon and cabbage and swill pints.
Your average Joe, I wager, is happy with the idea of the melting-pot - where cultures mix and amalgamate at their own pace without State meddling: I doubt if many want to continue down the already discredited road of multiculturalism - a society composed of distinct but equal cultural groups living parallel lives.
As President McAleese burbles the language of yesterday, a terrified Europe is changing course. Having caved into violent Islam over the issue of the moderately amusing Danish cartoons of Mohammed, there is an increasing realisation that Western freedoms are under threat from Islamism, which is directed by fanatics intent on using murder, intimidation, propaganda, entryism and fraud to impose brutal Sharia law on the whole world.
In Britain, London has had the 7/7 bombings and at present has more than 90 people awaiting trial on serious terrorist offences. New Labour - which was so emotionally and unthinkingly committed to multiculturalism that it directed its social policy to embrace and enhance diversity at the expense of social cohesion - is in a blind panic about how this has encouraged parts of the Muslim community to think of themselves as a separate and hostile state
'With the gory murder of Theo Van Gogh . . . the Dutch political elite have become hard-line assimilationists'
within a state. Criticisms of multiculturalism that ministers denounced as racist 18 months ago are now being made by most of the Cabinet.
In The Netherlands, where the elite actively encouraged immigrant groups to retain their language, religion and culture, Pim Fortuyn led a populist revolt against the "Islamisation of the Netherlands". He was murdered by an animal rights activist, but not before he had changed the political debate. With the gory murder of Theo van Gogh for the crime of making a film critical of Islamic oppression of women, and with death threats to his script-writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali that drove her to exile in America, the Dutch political elite have become hard-line assimilationists. Last week, RTE revealed that Ireland has been harbouring Islamist terrorist groups.
Maybe it is because, as Minister for Justice, it is Michael McDowell's job to keep us safe from terrorism that he has been paying attention to what is going on in Europe. Yes, he believes there is a need for a project "to redefine our view of Irishness and develop a shared vision of what Irish society is, and where it wishes to go". But while it is "an inalienable fact" that we have a multicultural society "which arrived very recently," he feels a more useful concept is "interculturalism, which seeks to focus on how the different cultures speak to each other." If the end product is "a merely multicultural society, then we will have failed."
Those who keep a tight eye on matters Islamic are well aware that among so-called moderate spokesmen of the Islamic Cultural Centre are adherents of the radical and dangerous Muslim Brotherhood. Someone should tell the President. When she visited it last week, she talked about the need for immigrants and the Irish to "be joyfully curious about each other". Tell that to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the Centre's spiritual leaders, whose joyful curiosity about gays extends to recommending they be stoned to death for what the President would no doubt call their "otherness".
The President thinks the Centre exists so Muslims will bridge the gap between "the world they have left behind and the new world they were coming to". Well, Madam President, as many Muslims would tell you privately, Sheikh al-Qaradawi and his ilk want as many Muslim children as possible to be kept away from mainstream influences they think a danger to faith and morals. Put that in your multicultural peace pipe and smoke it.