Sunday, July 08, 2012

Why the Capital Should be Moved to Cork (Seriously)

They are rabbiting on again on the Marian Finucane show on radio again this morning, this time about the conflict of interest story re: Terry Prone and Tom Savage, the PR Consultant and her husband, the Chairman of the RTE Authority.  Government representatives (to whom the RTE Authority reports) are sitting on the panel. in the RTE Studios (that Savage is, ostensibly, responsible for), presumably all being paid by RTE to be there (saving, one would hope, the politicians themselves).  Mike Soden, government sanctioned Central Bank Commissioner (and former CEO of Bank of Ireland); Pat Rabbitte Minister for Communications, from Mayo, now Dublin South West; Sam Smyth, long-in-the-tooth Dublin journalist, from the North, resident in Dublin for several decades now; and so on and so forth.  The Dublin elite, talking about Dublin conflicts of interest, feigning shock and amazement for the benefit of their advertisers.

Them 'n' Us

Now, I'm not the Michael Lowry / Jackie Healy Rae begrudge 'them in Dublin' camp, but the more we try and establish a framework for recovery, the more things stay the same.  If Tom Savage steps down from the RTE Authority, he will be replaced by another insider.  We're not going to see a BBC exec parachuted in, or some new blood arriving to establish a new strategic direction.  Instead, we'll see a safe pair of hands, responsible for a key strategic asset of the state, someone familiar with the organisation and the processes in Dublin.  In other words, nothing changes.

At a very fundamental level, there is high rhetoric about change (such as the Constitutional Commission), but absolutely no appetite for change.  Fine Gael is a different set of people doing the same thing as Fianna Fail did before them.  The tribunals and commissions and the courts retain their separation and protectionism (constitutionally mandated, of course), and Fine Gael will not have their triumph taken from them after 100 years of trying.  To change the establishment, which needs to to be completely redesigned, would be to deny themselves dominon over that establishment that they have fought for 100 years to achieve.

And so say all of them 

The civil service, the journalists, the PR consultants, the lobbyists, the infrastructure of the Dublin administration to a man want everything to stay the same.  Meanwhile, the debt pile gets higher, unemployment gets worse, the gap between rich and poor gets higher, house prices stagnate or continue to fall (particularly outside Dublin), and the voiceless in society get further isolated and disenfranchised.  Fewer and fewer people vote; local government is increasingly emaciated; what power remains in the country (that which has not evacuated to Brussels) gets drawn up into the Dublin vortex, and the leeches and the parasites of power are sated.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

So how do we really effect change?  It's trite to say this is a Dublin thing, one that persists once you get inside the pale.  But there are hundreds of thousands of people who live within the boundaries of the capital that are as disenfranchised as the turf cutters of Galway, the fishermen of Donegal, and the hoteliers of Killarney.  Further more, there are plenty of people like the Taoiseach himself who have inveigled their way through the system into the Dublin elite.  The elite itself got us into the position we are in, in particular the permanent government, and if we are to see significant change, then we need to trust in ourselves, and abandon that infrastructure. So how do we do that?

Where we sported and played...

We should think about moving the Dáil to Cork.  Before you choke on your tea, think about this.  We need significant change.  There is disproportionate focus on Dublin.  Relatively, for the country, Dublin is too big.  House prices are too high, even now!  What would change if we did this?  Well, first of all we would have real decentralisation.  McCreevy's botched attempt at it ten years ago was crass politics, an attempt to win the elusive overall majority, and crippled by the fact that the politicians were going nowhere.  Decentralising to one hundred different locations around the country was so astonishingly stupid, it could never have worked.  And without leading - taking the genuine locus of power and decentralising that - everyone in the civil service would have seen that as a demotion, a pre-retirement move (the good life), or at best a sideways step.  

The president could remain in Dublin, as would the enormous legacy of power in the form of other national institutions - galleries, theatres, infrastructure, universities - as befit a very large city.  The infrastructure, creaking as it is now, would be significantly alleviated.  The way in which expenses are organised right now, there is an expectation that TDs travel, so that would work too.  The most significant thing would be a realignment of mind, a realignment of thinking.  Many civil servants would choose to remain in Dublin, which in this case would be seen as a pre-retirement move, or a demotion. Clearly personal and family issues would require significant change in the personnel of the civil service.  

Journalists and lobbyists too would see a restructuring.  The cost of services would decline, though services in Cork would increase.  The elite of Ireland would get out of their heads, in the best way possible.  It would be a bold move.  It may not be politically rewarding for any of the parties, and so would require real and genuine leadership.  It could never be done by a Dublin Taoiseach, nor indeed by a Cork Taoiseach.  But a Taoiseach from Mayo?  

The most disappointing thing of all is that it's not just that I can't see this Taoiseach doing anything like this, I can't see him doing anything important.  Nothing.  The country is devoid of inspiration, not just leadership, and that's a very dangerous place for it to be.

(Edit - July 10th 2012 - Kevin Bakhurst of the BBC was just appointed head of News & Current Affairs at RTE.  Not Chairman of the RTE Authority, but it's a start!)


1 comment:

Anonymous said...


good idea, there are obvious factors that would prevent it, but the kernel that the over-focus of power into one area and the subsequent dull use of that power needs to be challenged is a positive idea,
The establishment in the free state is the most unimaginative crew ever established. Add the easy corruption and you end up with a our current set up