Kevin Flanagan is the founder of Tir Na Saor (Land of the Free), an Irish website and social network devoted to the Liberty movement in Ireland. It is particularly interested in the subject of law, money and debt, spirituality and reinvigorating interest in old Irish culture.
Ireland has an endlessly fascinating Libertarian history. Since the Bronze Age until the 17th century, there was no central authority on the island, and the peace was enforced through the Brehon Law-- which was a voluntarily produced and locally enforced set of laws and customs.
Free market scholars like Murray Rothbard and Finbar Feehen-Fitzgerald have proposed Brehon Law as a primordial model of how the law could work in a modern, post-political society: starting from first principles, simple, unchanging, governing fundamental principles rather than specific rules. A modern version of the "Law" would likely spark a meritocratic market of professional arbiters, rather than the traditional model of legislatures and courts that underpin the current political process.
Here is a fascinating interview with Kevin on such wide-ranging topics as law, finance, spirituality and Irish Reunification.
Tell me a bit about your background.
While I was not raised in a religious household, from a young age I have had great interest in mysticism. The concept of ‘God,’ and the true nature of reality fascinated me. I knew there had to be more to the world than meets the eye. This interest first brought me to the study of ghosts and the paranormal, as well as eastern spirituality.
Over the past eight years this evolved into an interest in the banking system, and ultimately the Law. I learned there is a core philosophy behind the outer conceptions of ‘Law’, which subsequently lead me to University to study the subject proper. My interests today include these subjects but with a focus on philosophy, history, classical and biblical studies. I find correlations between these fields and generally view the whole body of research as one single subject on the study of life, the world and reality.
What inspired you to start Tir Na Saor? How has it been going since then?
I remember feeling helpless about the state of the world and not having anyone to talk to about it. Things started to change when I came across a video by John Harris called "It’s an Illusion." I sat watching and listening to this man explaining how the State is set up, how it is in fact run as a corporation, how statutes relate to individuals, the relationship of man to the State and the ‘freeman’ perspective. I absorbed all this information but was not sure how it all fit together. Then one night the penny dropped and I realized that the logic of the freeman concept correlated to realizing who and what you are, and your responsibility to change your own reality.
The idea of Tír na Saor came to my mind as an epiphany. It’s hard to explain now but really it was the notion of having this real ‘land of the free.’ A real piece of land that lived under a fair law, a real law, a common-law of the free people who made it a reality. I wanted to reach out to others who were looking into this information. I knew Ireland needed its own space for this idea to grow and develop. So one day I set up Tír na Saor, and by the end of the day there were ten members on the site and more and more people started to join up and share content. Very quickly the site became a great resource for people. We started meet ups in Dublin while other members did the same in their own counties. Sister websites sprang up in Scotland, Wales, England and even as far as Australia.
If we sit here and think about the big bad world we can quickly become overwhelmed by magnitude of what needs to be done. As Gandhi said, you must be the change you want to see in the world. As individuals we cannot stop the wars, feed every starving child or house every homeless family – the very thought is enough to make people give up before they start because it’s a futile effort. I was convinced that what I had learned about the law, our rights and our power as free people was the beginning of the solution to the bigger problems. The change we want to see in the world really starts with the self. We start from within and move outward, to our own household, to our community, to our country and then to the world. There’s an old saying I learned while in India: If everyone sweeps his or her own doorstep the whole world will be clean.
Today, Tír na Saor is a veritable mine of information on all alternative subjects and this is entirely down to the contributions of its members. I learned that there are amazing, intelligent, open-minded, brave, kind, generous, brilliant and compassionate people in this country. I must say the people I have met over the years on Tír na Saor have given me hope for the future.
How would you like to deal with the problem of Ireland's financial sector?
Get out of the Euro – it’s a joke and has been from the start. The amount of money in circulation should be resource based but not necessarily based on gold or silver. A better medium might be to limit and link it to the actual production or value of the country. Money would be representative of a portion of the country’s value. The amount of money available to a country should be finite and limited to the actual value of that country – if we as a country want more money in circulation, we would need to make our country more productive and more valuable. Lending and borrowing would need to take into account the long-term utilitarian effects of investing in certain projects and it’s baffling that this isn’t the case already.
Part of the euro zone crisis relates to the disparate gaps in the wealth of certain countries competing with each other. Clearly, Germany is more productive and hence more valuable than Ireland or Greece, it doesn’t make sense to try and group them all together into one common market. Accepting this fact should motivate us to become more productive in our own countries.
On a local level, I strongly believe people should focus on alternative means of exchange. We promote local exchange and trade systems, barter and skill swapping, growing food, producing energy and generally working towards a self-dependant life style. We aim to give people the tools and information they need to become free from their dependence on the state, utility companies and even supermarkets.
The way I see it, we have two options, and the walls of the system are crumbling either way. We will have to deal with it sooner or later. We can wait for the thing to collapse and then deal with it – remember the Weimar Republic; or we as a community can start to act now and begin to put safety nets in place -- mechanisms that will cushion the blow of collapse. If, by some rare miracle, it doesn’t collapse we will still have alternative means of trade that have nothing to do with the banks and this can only be a good thing.
How does Ireland's relationship with the European Union need to change?
First and foremost we need to start calling a spade a spade and acknowledge the fact that, legally and politically speaking, Ireland is no longer a sovereign state. I remember when the Lisbon Treaty was being pushed and politicians coming out saying it won’t have an effect on our sovereignty –- maybe this was true insofar as the sovereignty had already been diminished before the Treaty, but having studied European Union Law it is patently clear that Ireland is no longer sovereign.
On a political level, I cannot see how our relationship with the EU will change any time soon so it falls to the man on the street to live in a manner that the EU cannot affect. This is easier said than done when you consider the legal, economic and now the political power of the EU to regulate affairs in member states. I think the only thing we can really do is create systems of living that reduce to potency of EU in our lives. We should also remember that the agreements entered into by political leaders do not contain our own signatures. To say that one may only represent me when I consent is a logical proposition. How can one claim to speak and act for me without my say so? It’s like the agreement Shell went into with the Irish Government to drill and pipe oil off the Irish coast – they act as though the Irish people agreed to this because a ‘representative’ of them allowed it to go ahead and signed some contract with them – but the Irish people did not sign any contract, they did not consent to have their natural resources sold to a multi-national giant for a meager £1 – so can Shell really claim to have a valid agreement to take the peoples resources which were only being held on trust by the government?
I am skeptical of any political change in Ireland’s relationship to the EU and feel that the only change that would make any difference will be on a grass roots level. EU dictating your monetary policy? Don’t use the euro – create a local currency such as the ‘Youro’ being used in some villages in Ireland. We take the power back by weaning ourselves off the dependency.
What kind of culture does Tir Na Saor wish to promote in Ireland?
Our mission statement should give you a good idea. Ultimately Tír na Saor is about Freedom and Education. We aim to give people the ability to make informed decisions in their life. One thing that really stands with Tír na Saor is that there is no central doctrine or party politic that requires conformity. If you join the Socialist party for example you will sooner or later be reading Marx and there is an ideal ‘socialist character’ that you will conform to. Tír na Saor is not like that at all. We value individuality, creative thought and even difference of opinion provided it is done with respect for the opposing point of view. It’s a platform for people to share information and perspectives, which enable others to come to their own conclusions, to form their own informed worldview and to act in a manner that correlates to their beliefs.
What’s interesting about Freedom and Education is that historically the two concepts went hand in hand. Take the word Liberty – the root word liber is the Latin for book and gives us words like Library and Libertarian. A Libertine for example was an emancipated slave who was now free to educate himself in the liberal arts. This word has come to be associated with a freethinker. Education in Freedom is Freedom in Education.
Do you think Irish Reunification is on the horizon?
It’s difficult to call. If it is on the horizon it probably won’t be in the form that we would have expected. We cannot ignore the political reality of the divide, but Ireland is and always will be an island. It’s a landmass surrounded by the sea – no amount of human classification or political divides will change this.
I personally regard such man-made designations as being essentially artificial and subject to change. Ireland today is called a ‘Republic’ and is no longer referred to in common parlance as ‘Hibernia’ or for that matter ‘Saorstát Éireann,’ but the island and the people remain. We are flesh and blood, we live on a land mass we call Ireland. It’s an unfortunate product of our history that in the minds of many an imaginary line divides us to our brothers in the North. A division that has festered and fed on itself making it concrete in the minds of many – remember Wolfe Tone and the United Irishmen, remember Charles Stewart Parnell and many other figures in the struggle for Irish Independence were Protestant.
We were brothers in Christ before we were political and religious rivals. Strip away the politics, the religion and the bullshit and all you have left is your fellow man. I feel that this sort of perspective would be most productive for the island.