Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fine Gael and The Will To Power

Abolishing the Seanad is an intellectually lazy and
populist move that will compound our system's failure
I shared a plane journey to New York yesterday with a man working with NGOs, in the area of global co-ordination.  We talked about how difficult it was to control egos where righteousness levels seem to know no limit.  "People get into this," he said, "with the best of intentions - then they forget about why they're there, they forget about the children, and the starving, and the organisation becomes an end in itself.  You can get a lot done when you remind them about why they're there."

It reminded me of the current position of Fine Gael.  Their power is absolute now, and in a quite Machiavellian way, Enda Kenny is working extremely hard on the consolidation of that position.  Dissent is being quashed.  The banking enquiry is being squarely aimed at Fianna Fáil - lest people forget.  And the junior partner in coalition is getting stuffed, like all junior coalition partners do.  The Seanad Referendum will run immediately before the budget, taking much of the heat out of what is already being predicted as being the worst ever (we can already hear the plaintive 'well, it could have been worse' from the hung mouths of TDs when it doesn't turn out to be as bad as we'd all feared), and the government strategy is being dictated by the calendar for local elections next year, in order to crush any electoral dead cat bounce from Fianna Fáil.

Good people with good intentions are irrelevant, and likely to cause upset.  Therefore they are discarded. George Lee was never going to be used for his obvious talents if he didn't begin with politics. James Reilly's first allegiance is to his Taoiseach and Fine Gael, and therefore Roisin Shortall was never going to last against him.  Lucinda Creighton - as much a threat to Enda's future leadership as to his political programme - was clearly expendable, sans larmes.  Peter Mathews, one of the only members of the government parties with actual real banking experience, if not the only member, was unceremoniously dumped from the Finance Committee for exercising dissent.  Good people, good talent, elected by the people to serve, summarily lanced from power by the leadership.

Even had those people remained, the disdain with which the democratic process is regarded by Enda Kenny is astonishing.  Politics in its finest form should be a marriage between pragmatism and ideology.  None of this appears in our current leadership - neither pragmatism nor ideology. It is merely a naked, raw power play.  Power is the end in itself, nothing more.  The righteousness and arrogance drips from the leadership - Kenny, Hogan, Shatter, Reilly; Michael Noonan and Richard Bruton seem less infected, but they are both men chastened by recent history, and controllable for that.

It is wildly disappointing, though perhaps not unexpected, that we have arrived at this point.  It is as much a systemic failure as it is a failure of leadership, of people.  The abolition of the Seanad, an intellectually lazy and populist move that Richard Bruton is being forced to advocate (in spite, one suspects, of his own beliefs), will merely compound the failure of the system.  We need reform; we need popular engagement; and we need it now.

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