I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Behind the Erin Curtain

Behind the Erin Curtain

Bryan Fanning
In his 1959 science fiction novel Ossian’s Ride, Fred Hoyle imagined an Ireland of the near future in which startling developments have perplexed the outside world. The year is 1970. How, a young scientist is asked by the British secret service, could such an apparently backward country suddenly manifest bewilderingly advanced technology? The answer seems to lie somewhere beyond a mysterious cordon that extends from Tarbert on the Shannon estuary, via Kanturk and Macroom, to the south Kerry coast. Every nation on earth is directing ninety-five per cent of its undercover activity towards Ireland, but to no avail. Behind the iron curtain that had descended over Kerry there were signs of perplexing technologies at work under the control of the Industrial Corporation of Eire (I.C.E.). I.C.E had come into existence in 1958, soon after the real-life Irish government had adopted its First Programme for Economic Expansion. In Hoyle’s 1958, a group of scientists had approached the Irish government for permission to set up an industry that would extract chemicals from turf. They asked for and received a ten-year tax break, after which taxes of up to £5 million would be paid each year. But within eight years they were making hundreds of millions of pounds profits per annum from the export of contraceptive pills. The Church fulminated, but to no avail (“Against laughter the Hierarchy fights in vain.” “Think of it, contraceptives from turf!”). But clearly these have not been for Irish use since the birth rate in Ireland has begun to rise. Ireland has become an immigrant destination. Foreign scientists are recruited by I.C.E in large numbers. By 1970 Hoyle’s Ireland has considerable high-tech industry and a chain of commercial nuclear reactors. The British are nervous. And the Americans. If I.C.E can make reactors it can also produce weapons of mass destruction. Hoyle’s scientist hero, Sherwood, eventually discovers that Ireland’s miraculous development is directed by aliens from a dying world. Science fiction for Hoyle was a sideline. He was one of the best-known British scientists of his time. During the war he had been one of the boffins who developed radar. He was a cosmologist who pioneered the study of nucleosynthesis in stars, calculated the age of the universe and coined the term “Big Bang” that became the shorthand for a theory he didn’t subscribe to. He was preoccupied with science and progress. In the novel, his protagonist eventually joins…

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