Government of cynical stunts is allergic to real democracy
‘Bring back Brian Cowen and Bertie!’
A joint Oireachtas committee in session – Government proposals are “pretend reforms, which will change some of the frolics of our system but nothing that matters.” PHOTOGRAPH: BRYAN O’BRIEN
We barely have a democracy here. Every four or five years we are offered the option of voting for one crowd or another crowd, both of whom will behave in more or less the same autocratic way in office and both of whom will implement almost exactly the same policies. The idea that we the people are self-governing is a mirage. This is not government of the people, by the people, for the people.
What is called our parliamentary democracy does not work either. Parliament is almost irrelevant. The government of the day decides everything and uses its majority in parliament to frustrate any meaningful accountability. Parliament (the Dáil) is unrepresentative. Few women, almost nobody from deprived communities. The people as a whole are alienated from politics – politics and politicians are regarded with derision.
None of the political parties proposes doing anything about this democratic deficit, in part because of simple indifference, in part because there is a vested interest in keeping the system as it is. There are pretended “reforms” but nothing to address the exclusion of the people from the big decisions; the collapse of parliamentary democracy; the unaccountability of government; and the unrepresentative character of the system.
You would have thought that because of the failure of our political system to avert the financial crisis there would be some initiative on changing the system radically. None at all. Instead we are offered, notably by the Government, pretend reforms that will change some of the frolics of our system but nothing that matters.
Worse than that, the main Government party, Fine Gael, seeks to capitalise on the public derision for politics by promising fewer politicians (presumably an unwitting commentary on themselves).
Our first constitution (that of 1922) provided a mechanism whereby citizens could instigate legislation and, where the Oireachtas failed to respond, submit the initiative to a referendum, with the outcome being binding on the Oireachtas.
Why can’t we, the people, have that again? Should the sovereign people not have had an entitlement, for instance, to a final say on the bank guarantee and on the surrender to the European Union and International Monetary Fund of what had remained of our sovereignty?
Enda Kenny has argued that the Seanad should be abolished because it failed to avert the financial crisis. More significantly, the Dáil failed to avert the financial crisis, in part because it was incapable of doing so and in part because the opposition led by Enda Kenny urged policies that would have made the crisis even worse.