Reform is not abstract: misgovernment does real, tangible harm to our citizens
Opinion: Three stories from the past week – about Phil Hogan, the HSE and developer Tom McFeely – show the need for action
The third concrete detail from last week is in Michael O’Farrell’s encounter with the developer of Priory Hall, Tom McFeely, reported in the Mail on Sunday. Mr McFeely reportedly tells us: “There’s no person in the Free State can get me in jail. There’s no way in forever and a day I am going to prison.” His confidence speaks for itself and, on the basis of all known history, seems entirely rational.
These three vignettes point to an executive that is both sloppy and arrogant; a system of delivery of public services and of public administration that struggles with basic ideas of responsibility and accountability; and a justice system that has repeatedly failed to ensure that wealthy people who wreak havoc with other people’s lives do not enjoy impunity. We can add the acknowledged failure of parliament to be, in the Government’s own words, more than “an observer of the political process”. These multiple levels of misgovernment inflict immense, tangible damage on citizens. Only a genuine, coherent, multi-layered “democratic revolution” that puts citizens in charge of their own republic can prevent that harm from continuing.
PS: There has been considerable comment over the weekend to the effect that I advised readers to risk spoiling their votes in the Seanad referendum by writing the word “reform” on the ballot. I did no such thing, of course. As someone who has been publicly active on these issues, I thought it proper to tell readers that I was engaging in a small personal protest at the Government’s insistence on presenting citizens with a false “choice” between abolishing bicameralism and keeping a discredited institution. This action, as I wrote, was “for myself”: I have far too much respect for readers to suggest that they are (a) not literate enough to understand this distinction or (b) not adult enough to make their own decisions for themselves.
Arbitrary and inconsistent
There is, however, a more general question to be addressed. The ruling out by some returning officers of votes that had a clear indication of preference simply because something was written on the ballot paper is arbitrary, inconsistent and undemocratic. The instruction given on polling cards and in polling stations is simply to mark an X opposite Yes or No.
There is no indication that those who do this properly may – or may not – have their votes discounted if they write a word on the bottom of the paper.
Is there not a legal case to be taken by a public-spirited lawyer?