Friday, November 09, 2012

The Unrelenting Consensus

Alexis de Tocqueville: I wonder what he
would have made of Mattie McGrath?
Alexis de Tocqueville was born just after the French Revolution, and visited and wrote about America after its own upheaval, in his book 'Democracy in America'. There was considerable crossover between the thinking in the French and American Revolutions, and in the development of political thought.  The momentum of the French Revolution brought with it the chaos and carnage of The Terror, and ultimately of course Napolean re-established a de facto dictatorship for a time; in America, things were a little smoother, through universal franchise and liberté, égalité and fraternité were fine so long as you weren't a slave, or Native American. Today, it could plausibly be argued that France has reasserted a kind of acceptable socialism, notwithstanding the elitism of its administration, while America's development has led to a position where many commentators lamented the lack of difference in the platforms of the two candidates in this week's presidential election.  Countries, then, take different paths, though all democracies can see something of the philosophes in their constitutions.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Appreciating the Constitution

The Government Site was replaced with a copy
of the wording of the proposed amendment after the ruling.
The decision of the Supreme Court today that, as the Irish Times reported, ""extensive passages" in the Government's information booklet and on its website about Saturday's vote were in breach of rules designed to ensure a fair, equal and impartial playing field in referendum debates," needs to be understood more fully.  There are issues of constitutional law, separation of powers, and fundamental democratic norms that need to be addressed.  The interview given by Justice Minister Alan Shatter on the News at One today was unapologetic and aggressive towards the ruling of the court; indeed it was disrespectful.  This in turn causes further cause for concern.  The positive representations of government ministers in relation to the proposed amendment, as an exercise of executive office, are an issue.  And finally, the McKenna judgement along with the test for "material impact" from the 1994 Referendum Act are problematic.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Sensible Reason to Vote No to The Children Referendum

Apart from the drafting and interpretive issues with the Children's Rights amendment to the constitution, there are other practical issues.  I'm not talking about John Waters and The Austerity Man coming to your door - but policy issues.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Britain's Memory Problem

Euroscepticism in Britain has long been the foil of diplomatic strategists across the Irish Sea.  Those charged with the navigation of grand strategy are conscious of Britain's place in the world, her diminishing military status, but relative cultural strength.  Similarly, her proximity to Europe, and increasingly well integrated elites across the continent (and not just through royal marriage!) present an opportunity for Britain to be a bridge for both Americans who only speak English, and for the Chinese who have decided on English as their standard second language.  In order to take advantage of that opportunity, Britain needs deeper ties to Europe, where she can exercise not insignificant clout, and even leadership, should she decide to.