Monday, October 07, 2013

Seanad Result: An Irish Identity Crisis

There are those who would argue that the Seanad result is a vote against the government, a protest vote. Others say that it is a vote in favour of reform. I think it runs deeper than that, however. What we are seeing in this country is a pattern of negativity and absence in our politics that has become progressively worse over the last ten years.

The problem is that there is no vision, no direction being articulated by our elites.  Elites have never been a problem in this country, we are a people seemingly happy to subjugate ourselves before our betters, whether that's the British, the Catholic Church, or Fianna Fáil, though each of them found that there was a limit to our patience.  Each represented a kind of vision, an identity, a belief that we could attach ourselves to.  With the British, we were a part of Empire; with the Church, we were a Catholic Leader country, with education, healthcare and the entirety of our social fabric tied up in the Church; and with Fianna Fáil it was the political extension of the late nineteenth century Gaelic Revival, a kind of Irish exceptionalism, we saints and scholars, a cult of the extraordinary that was almost fascist in its design.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Retaining the Seanad: Vote No!

I was unsure about this referendum.  The Seanad has long been a bit of a wasted opportunity.  A landing spot for failed Dáil candidates; Bertie's appointment of Eoghan Harris; the famous 'weekend Senators' who get appointed for a couple of days at the end of a term in order to get past-members' parking rights and all that other bullshit.  Generally speaking it is a failed institution, and in truth we won't miss much if and when it's gone.

I'm voting to retain the Seanad.  Why?  Because of the cynical, populist, and arrogant way in which the Government has decided to execute its campaign.  This isn't reform, it changes nothing.  The problem is with the concentration of power, and this does nothing to address that.  This is nothing to do with saving money - no permanent jobs will go, and no buildings will go.  Yet the Government has said that this is why they are doing it, and, according to the Irish Times poll on Monday, that is why most people are in favour of abolition. Kenny and Fine Gael may have trumpeted the abolition of the Seanad loudly as a policy platform in the run up to the election, but they never once mentioned cost.

The abject lack of reform in the Dáil is what is being swept under the carpet here.  Once this has been put to bed, electoral and Dáil reform will be off the agenda for the remainder of the Dáil term.  The whip system will remain.  The electoral system will remain the same.  The excoriation of the Dáil as a relevant chamber will persist.  The concentration of power in the executive, in the top of the executive, will endure.  The government has succeeded in creating an effective dictatorship, without checks and balances, without accountability, and doomed to repeat the same mistakes that we made the night of the Bank Guarantee.  The government is too close to see it, and the rest of us are either blind or disinterested.  Sure, we have elections, and we can change who the dictator is.  But the song remains the same.