Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A No-Vision Rest Home for No-Vision Politicians: The Conservative Reform Alliance

Didn't get the memo then?
In Susan Neiman's 2008 Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists, there is at least some part of the answer to why we are all so cynical these days.  Neiman talks of things like reason and hope - not incompatible, it seems - and says of aspiration that so long as it is limited by the actual, no other idea has a chance.  Good bedtime reading for Lucinda Creighton, one suspects.

Her fall from high office has been well documented, losing the whip on the abortion bill, and subsequently forming the Reform Alliance, an entity not quite a political party, but registered for fundraising and populated by politicians.  Today, it emerged that several high profile independent TDs would not be supporting the breakaway movement, dealing a significant blow to the Alliance, and seriously undermining any ambitions it may have had to real power. Which is a shame.

Creighton remains an idealist politician, a rarity these days.  She remains however defined by a divisive issue - abortion - which is a gating prerequisite for her would-be colleagues, but an extreme position that sets her at odds with Europe and the Irish majority.  Catholic zealots have campaigned against every single European Treaty that I can remember - back to the Single European Act - on the basis of the pro-life position.  The European Union would inevitably introduce the prospect of abortion into Ireland, they said in 1987.  They were right. Unfortunately, you don't fill the RDS with minority positions.

The Reform Alliance is not about reform at all, and that is the shame of it.  Shane Ross, Stephen Donnelly, Katherine Zappone and Feargal Quinn - all of whom are not supporting Creighton, the Irish Times reports - are all strongly in favour of reform, and have each spoken at different stages about the ineffectiveness of the legislature and general governance in the State. Creighton's manifesto is actually one that perpetuates the status quo, save insofar as it regresses to a Catholic hold-out in Europe.  So why bother?

There are two real choices in politics in Ireland, one is the establishment, which is draining the country of its youth, selling the future of the country, and trying to perpetuate a dysfunctional and broken system.  The other is the former establishment, that copped the blame for the failure of the dysfunctional and broken system in 2008.  Creighton's attempt to create a third way merely establishes a shell party to collect those who would perpetuate the system without being tainted by the current austerity or previous failure.  It is centrist, conservative, and self-serving.

When she broke away at first I was encouraged by the potential.  I wrote to her.  I used to be a member of Fine Gael until I couldn't stomach it any more.  I said that there were two things needed for a genuine alternative to emerge that could change Ireland for the better: reform, and vision.  This group has neither.

There are six pledges on the Reform Alliance website: growing the economy, tax relief for working people, dignity and security for the elderly and vulnerable, tackling fraud of public debts, protecting frontline services in the health system, and educational diversity.  Growing the economy is a trite commitment, and if Fine Gael was defined by one thing, that would be it.  If they were truly interested in reform, their objective would be to change the basis upon which our economy is built. Tax relief? Give me a break. Populist, regressive, middle class appealing.  The third pledge is the pro-life pledge, along with a sop to elderly voters. Fraud on public debt is again populist, and will be shut down by legal considerations and the sub judice rule once they're called on it.  On healthcare, there is no commitment to reform, just to make sure nurses are happy and don't get fired.  Educational diversity - what is that?  It's insane!

There is no mention of local government; no mention of electoral reform; no mention of Dáil reform, the whip system, the guillotine.  There is no mention of financial regulation, no mention of technology in government, no mention of Constitutional reform.  No mention of the protected professions - doctors, lawyers.

Monster meeting in the RDS?  Give me a break.  There will be a crowd there no doubt, but it will be mostly journalists, councillors, and politicos from across the spectrum curious as to what they're going to say.  And that, as they say, will be that.  No vision, no inspiration, and no cohones.  If you're going to build a party, build a party.  You try half measures and you'll get eaten alive.  I'm afraid this will be Ms Creighton's last Dáil; if I were a betting man I'd say she won't even live in Ireland within five years.

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