Well seeing as its coming up to that twice a decade occasion when we get the chance to decide who we will put in the driving seat of our beloved little country for the next 5 years or so Iâ€™ve been doing a little thinking.
Overcome as I am with the weekly lovebombs from our political parties promising me everything from less tax, less tax and even less tax ,while at the same time throwing squillions of euros at every possible public amenity in sight (the auld maths were never my strong point) , sticking every criminal that ever was in jail and throwing away the key, telling me what a great little country we have become , and or will become if I give them the keys to the Taj MaHaughey for the next half decade , and the icing on the cake , when my local TD , with great flourish and really snazzy graphics, took a whole flyer to inform me that I have now got full permission to park my Hummvee in the Bus Lane from 9.30 to 16.00hrs every day â€“ God bless him! Sure what else would I be doing during normal business hours in the leafy confines of upper Rathmines - Rathgar (surely not working a bike and luas ride away in a Manufacturing plant!- an environmentally aware candidate my ass!)
That bit of immensely relieving and pleasurable sarcasm aside, Seeing as the politicos will be over us all like flies over a recently produced piece of organic fertilizer in the coming weeks, Iâ€˜ve been thinking of doing up a manifesto of my own and mailing it to all parties standing in the constituency and giving me first few preferences to those who might actually be arsed replying to me with anything other than usual patronising guff. Or, it might really be time to quit bitching from the ditch, stop dreaming about how green the grass is on the other side, reconcile myself to the fact that Iâ€™m here for the long term (until I win the lotto anyway) and grow up and get involved in the political process while we still have a democracy and I still have the will to be bothered about it.
Therefore here would be a few of my proposals of what I would like to see happening around here before Iâ€™m committed.
The biggest Change in my opinion, needs to be in Stamp Dutyâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦…!!! â€“ yawn - yeah right - In all honestly , the biggest changes need to be in the political system itself.
A) Voting to be made compulsory.
You have to have a licence to drive a car, fish for salmon or trout, a valid ticket to travel on public transportation ,yet on the one thing that defines you as a citizen and stakeholder in a democracy you are allowed cop out of â€“ This needs to be changed pronto. If a society is to function effectively, all the voices of its citizens need to be heard and also its citizens need to be made aware that citizenship is a two way street â€“ the last time I looked we lived in a republic, not a monarchy â€“ we are citizens, not subjects and citizenship involves responsibility â€“ the biggest being the choosing of the executive to whom we give sovereignty to govern on our behalf. The ballot paper also should include a â€œnone of the aboveâ€
I disagree with a number of your points fundamentally, and most specifically, with regard to the list issue. Your point that X Y or Z such as SUV parking should not be the business of your local TD is valid, but the list system will not change that - reform of local government would.
The other serious, serious problem I have is that in practice, what has happened in terms of national thinking in this country is that what is good for Dublin is good for the country as a whole. Your list system would totally and utterly exacerbate this mess. The net result is that if you have a list system where most people outside the powercentre of the country, ie Dublin, feel totally disenfranchised, you would have a certain amount of unrest very quickly. I live in Swords. I expect my local representatives to represent my locality at a national level. That is what having a national parliament is all about - you have a voice at a national level. With that voice gone, I don’t think you can call it democratic and as the “what is best for the country” is - regardless of how few young people want to admit it - is a subjective value. I’ve lived and worked in Dublin for the past 8 years. I think the best things for Ireland as a whole is that the city be levelled and built from scratch. There is some very rational argument for it when you think about it given that the city is a mess, a wart on the face of the country, it’s where most of the serious social issues are and it is where most of the serious infrastructure problems are in terms of transport.
Democracy is not a perfect system but it is based on the concept of representation. A set up such as you propose would effectively represent no one because it tries to represent everyone without any regard to their needs which are always - local.
I’m not a great fan of single issue/independent candidates. But I think it is a mark of health in democracy in this country that they have the freedom to run for election on whatever their platform. I don’t agree with any or all of them but I do believe in their right to stand.
When people constantly complain about their local political candidates/representatives I have only this to say “do you get involved, do you want to do something?” It doesn’t matter what your system of governance is, it stands or falls on the people who stand for election within it. My local Fianna FÃ¡il canvasser who took a hammering off me about property last week adamantly pointed this out. You can get involved too.
But this country is all about taking, whinging, and not much about giving. I have things that I would like to see done in this country. As far as governance is concerned, the key thing I would like to see changed is a certain amount of local government reform, and devolution of items to local level such as deciding where schools are built, funding for schools - just as a key example. Even if that is done however, I want to live in a country where I have the right to get representation at national level from someone representing ME. Your list means people will represent everyone in general, but nothing much in particular. I think it’s a horrible, horrible idea, total waste of resources and probably doomed to failure given human nature. Apply it perhaps to European candidates at most where we do need national representation but nationally, no. I don’t agree with it at all.
But isn’t the point that Ed’s making and I agree with is that they *don’t *represent you. They don’t give a toss about you except at election time when they then apparently ‘care’ about what you think? If they *really *cared at a local level we would live in a very different society. You would live in a neighbourhood that had ample schooling and local ameneties for everyone living there. You would live in a neighbourhood where you wouldn’t have to fight for basic rights only to end up relying on your local policitican to hopefully fight your coner… because that policitican would already have been pro-active in ensuring that shameful over-crowding and over development didn’t happen in the first place.
The problem with local politics is that many politicians will do anything to get elected (their primary agenda) and will do favours for as many people as they can in the process, whether that’s in everyone’s interest or not.
If it’s broke, fix it. The system doesn’t work. For my money, a totally fresh approach would be welcome.
What I mean is that you need a local voice at national level. What Ed is proposing would kill that stone dead. The current system is not perfect, but its imperfections are drawn on the persons who make up the system not from the system itself. So what I am saying is that Ed’s list proposal will change nothing because all the parties still only want votes, only want to be elected; only this time, they are a step further removed from the electorate. IF you think a list is going to magically create principled hardworking politicians, I’d have to say that’s naive in the extreme.
Good comeback Calina , I can see your point of view without agreeing with it.
I completely disagree with that point in regard to Dublin - Im not a Dub myself - If anything ,in respect of the massive population growth and its position as the engine of the Irish economy I would argue that Dublin is under represented in the Dail and it shows in the poor infrastruture and hair brained way in it which it is being let sprawl out in all directions - there are many other consitutencies that are over represented in proportion to the overall electorate of the country. 80 years of “local representation” has done nothing or very little for the regions , apart from a few morsels thrown out here or there and absolutely no joined up thinking involved as every TD is out for him/herself and to protect their seat and be the one who can proudly boast of bring home the biggest piece of bacon from those eejits in Dublin.(Im a hillbilly and proud of it and I know exactly what Im talking about here) Nearly every single intiative or good plan for the nation as a whole has floundered on the rocks of “local representation” - it might be good for the country as whole but if it discomforts one member of the ruling coalition in a marginal constituency - the whole thing is watered down , more get out clauses than a professional footballers contract inserted, and, or the whole plan is quietly shelved and we’re back to square one again.
Calina, Im sick and tired of living in a country where nothing gets done, nothing moves , where there is lots of talk, talk and more talk ,yet if the slightest degree of opposition arises - forget that , way too dangerous - we might lose power. Look at the Health service - total paralysis - we must have cut down half the rainforests in producing report after report saying the same thing - rationalise the service - increase the quality at various centres - we dont live in Alaska - its a small country and still relatively easy to get around - makes sense , everybody connected with it says it makes sense - but all it takes is pressure on one TD and whole plan is aborted - you might call that democracy - I call that blackmail - Fuck the rest of yis - we’re keeping what we have - it might be shite but its our shite! - Well??
Moving on to decentralisation - the year before McCreevy announced this we had a great spacial development plan announced - so you would think it would make sense to move gov departments to these centres - it would give the plan some traction and a kickstart - not on your nelly - Decentralisation A la FF/PDs was done with one thing in mind and one thing only - shoring up the votes in consitutencies that showed the most promise - never mind that the whole thing has denegerated into a proverbial dogs dinner - it showed that commonsense and taking the good of the country as a whole will never be a priority as long as representatives at a national level are so dependent on a such a narrow geographic electorate for their position. Well thats democracy you might say - fair enough - its also a receipe for paralysis , and most importantly with your previous post in mind - as long as it remains unchanged , there will never be the serious upgrading of local and regional government that this country is crying out for at the moment - too much loss of valuable patronage and brownie point scoring that is vital to winning relection as the system currently stands.
I really think that having a directly related electoral representative is totally overrated. I could probably have as constructive and stimulating a relationship with a representative elected on a list basis with modern communications -On a personal note I’ve exchanged communications with serveral US senators, British MPs and members of the European Parliament (they always reply and in detail even tho Im not even vaguely conditional to their relection) over the same medium as we are having this discussion now. I applied for membership of a political party here 3 months ago - even gave them my credit card number and I’ve heard nothing! . As Jeanne very rightly said they’ll all be round ,chatting me up etc etc - but once the election is over - see ya - I don’t see how a list system would cut people off or be any more distant than the current situation - we live in a small country - they still have to be elected - Im quite sure if we had real local goverment - they would still have to show their faces and listen to concerns - anyway the Joe Duffy Show, not Dail Eireann, is now the way that local mobs can get what they want very effectively.
But your point is regard to this strikes directly to the heart of the issue - It really comes down to your perception of democracy and governance - if it is that your local reps are there to protect and fight your localities corner -come hell or high water or no matter how selfish and nimbist it comes across as and how detrimental it is to the greater community - well keep your local representation at national level - but when you go on about the how this disfunctional this country can appear to be and why we can never think out logical national plans that would be to the benefit of all of us and why are our heath and educational systems give the impression of dickensian neglect and functionality , that we have no plan for regional industrial and manufacturing clusters and centres , why our energy system is falling apart because a couple of midland TDs are hostage to wasteful and obsolete powerstations - Well don’t come crying to me - I know on first appearances it may seem radical - but has it done the Germans,the Swiss, the french the Dutch , the Israelies (economically speaking anyway) or scandanavians cousins any harm ?
We need our national parliament to think strategically - not operationally - until it is made more distant from local concerns - in tandem with serious functional local democracy - we will still be falling between two stools - trying to address both levels and failing both - we have to grow up politically here - Im aware I can be overly cynical about politicians but the way the system is weighed does not help and probably frustrates the hell out of them - the current system was built for a different country in a different century - we need a system that brings the best of of our people and more crucially allows them a say in their welfare at the correct level - I don’t go running to the CEO of my company when I need a cheque signed off to repair one of my forklift fleet - it would be a waste of his time and rightly so if he had to deal with all these issues that can be dealt with more easily and efficiently by the general manager or operations manager - why should running and governing our country be any different? - My CEO is there to make the big decisions that will decide the company and my progress over the next 5 years.
the list is not handed down - you actually vote for it and instead of thinking what a nice pleasant chap your rep is - people might actually read the manifestos with the Country in mind for maybe 1% of the time - Well it would be a 100% improvement on what we do currently. Maybe Im being optimistic or too much of a team player for this nation but its better than doing nothing at all - at the rate we are going democracy is becoming increasinly irrelevant here - I dont want it to die of neglect and apathy.
BTW - I would have no problems electing the Seanad on a regional basis - there local concerns could be raised and dealt with without derailing the whole system.
Calina - I have to be honest - but did you really think about the above before you wrote it? - That the problem is the people themselves not the system? - with that line of reasoning you could argue that the Health Service is fine - it just all those useless nurses and doctors that work there - that the Garda setup is fine except for the Gardai themselves ? - come on - That is really cynical and defeatist and I really expect better from you going on your previous post here and elsewhere
I have to agree with Ed. The Irish political system seems like kryptonite to the Superman of strategic planning and utilitarian pragmatism. There is something about Irish politics that I cant quite get a handle on, is it that sense of furtive; clubbish, agricultural, mediocrity?
Good post Ed,
I agree with the main thrust of your arguments on reform but offer the following suggestions.
A) I would place reform of local government as my number one priority. I agree with your suggestion of replacing county councils with regional councils. These new regional councils should have sufficient power to manage their locality including tax raising rights. I would also add, that the elected members of these bodies should receive a salary close to that of a current backbencher. A reformed and powerful local government should go some way to tackle the local thinking that is apparent of our national politics
B) Reforming the DÃ¡il would be the second priority, I would agree that less TD’s are needed, but I don’t think it is necessary to move to a full list system like the Netherlands or Israel but rather more like the 50/50 system the Germans have. This way you still have the local element represented in some regard at the national level. I’m not in full agreement with Calina on the need for this, but I do feel it is of some benefit and does help to connect people to the national politics. The hope would be that the politicians that want to achieve something for their locality will see that the regional councils are the best place to do this and will direct their efforts there, so that the DÃ¡il consists of politicians thinking nationally. I also think that TD’s and cabinet should be paid more but I accept the arguments for not doing it. It does seem counter intuitive that the minister for health should be on the same as a doctor/consultant.
As for addressing politicians working hours, I think that is less of an issue. The real work is done by the cabinet and I assume/hope they are working as hard as our teachers already, dare I say harder. I think the perception that politicians do no work comes from backbenchers and by reforming local government and reducing the number of TD’s this may take care of itself. There is a wider question of what the opposition actually do, but lets leave that aside for the minute.
C) As for mandatory voting, I think people should be free to choose. But Iâ€™m in favour of the other measures you suggested bank holiday, postal voting etc. And assuming you are not going to fine or imprison people for not voting, itâ€™s not going to be a deal breaker for me.
Alright Folks after all the fuss. I want to know who is ready to help?
We have a number of things to do.
Publicise this. It is very very difficult due to the complexities but let’s give it a shot. We need callers, writers and people who can oratate.
Enpower the muppet opposition (Fine Gael, Labour). Give these muppets the details on a plate and in terms a child can understand. Because lets face it they simply don’t understand. Lord help us with the class of politicians we have here in Ireland. (Ring and visit them and explain to them)
Take legal action against our own government (of course we will have to pay through our taxes to defend our obsene government) to stop this madness.
Another protest. I want to gauge apetite for this.
So anybody who wants in. Make a post.
P.S. If you think this is pointless then your not posting will make your point for you.
I’m conscious of the fact that though I’m still a taxpayer this year (cos I was self-employed in Galway for most of 2007) I no longer live in the State, and I’m a Nordie, so obviously given the slimy lying muppets we’re up against I can’t go out to bat for us or they’ll just smear all the rest of ye as a foreign non-resident Nordie Shinner Marxist Narcoterrorist front.
Happy to turn up to make up the numbers at any further protests though, as long as ye organise them for a weekend…
And of course, if anyone wants to “draw inspiration from” cough any of my rantings and ramblings on here for use in your own emails/letters, go right ahead.
Yea. I think we do need money. We have protested. We have appeared on radio and tv and frankly we are increasing our profile but I think a bloody big Advert could make all the difference. I’m still in for 1000 Euro.
I’m also starting to think our country is so infested with corruption (not at a street level) that we may need to look at fielding a few candidates in the next election.
Big problem here though. What are the policies? Peoples ideas are so different here that I think this is impossible. I just don’t think it could work.
What’s the interest like? Anybody interested in forming a political group? Any ideas?
I think someone mentioned before about fielding candidates and basically sorting a few SELECT issues we can agree on and after X amount of months calling an election again.
The idea would be to run on the pretence that your only there for a particular job.
Not sure if its enough or not. There is alot to think about and you would need these people out in front of TV cameras often over the interim telling people why things are wrong and why our way would be healthier long term.
ALso how do you prevent work being undone the minute you leave?
I see your frustration and urgency but I think an effective protest might need time, cunning, patience, Truth. This country does seem rotten to the core half the time and in need of a huge chimney sweep.
As you said there are differing opinions out there and perhaps the lack of broad consensus across different people or groups. Could it be possible to find a common denominator between different groups and go for that? If you’re looking for a groundswell then recently might be a good time to start stoking it up but maybe you’re looking at a lobby group angle?
I think you could be onto something about taking this shower of bastards to the Law - there is even a case in the ECJ on the over-pricing of cigarettes by them. Class actions or something?
See this mention of doing a particlular job appeals to me. However, donating your life to politics if you are honest usually ends in your misery. The sneaky magget usually wins. Look at politics at the moment. Nobody says what they will do cause if it is good the opposition adopts it or if it is not well recieved then the opposition derides you. It is a no win situation. The biggest problem with out electoral system is the short sightedness of the voter. You are really taking a risk dropping you job and trying to make a change. Of course this is not true if you are a teacher cause you can keep your job and try get elected. This is the reason there are so many limited people in politics. It has become a scam. Noting more. The idea of trying to help irish men and women has become a fantasy.
Money is the key, a paypal account would allow easy transfer of money which can be accumulated to launch a media blitz when the time is right, the sooner the better. Count me in for a donation as soon as you have it up and a specific objective defined for the money. A good option could be advertising on Dublin Bus, something “canny” could get allot of attention. Another option could be the regional newspapers, much cheaper than the nationals. I would personally contribute to having someone walk up and down outside the Dail for a week with a placard, whatever.
Not sure if you know the number of protesters walking up and down outside the dail. Quite a few.
We are a divided society, we only care about ourselves and due to this are left to protest alone when some dire is trust upon us by greedy politicians.
It’s the way our greedy politicains like it though.