09 July 2009

You go away for a few days...

The advantage of traveling abroad with no internet access is the euphoric sense of isolation from the rest of the world and the escape from the infuriating realities of mundane life such isolation engenders. The disadvantage of such travel is the overwhelming sense of depression and futile anger that arise once one is confronted with all the nastiness that occurred while you were away, and confronted with it en masse.

In the last week alone the Government has announced the date of the Lisbon II Referendum, which asks the people to vote yet again on the same piece of legislation defeated last year (an action which within the proposed timeframe I was almost positive was in and of itself unconstitutional), given the green light to sweeping new police powers, non-jury trials and secret courts, and introduced unmerited curbs to free speech in a manner seemingly designed to incentivise legal action by religious groups against writers, broadcasters, film-makers and artists.

The Lisbon II campaign will be fought by the government on the basis of scare-tactics and fear mongering, again the public will be kept in the dark as to the content of the Reform Treaty, and will be told "Vote Yes, or our economy will destroyed". The sweeping police powers are being introduced under the guise of combating criminal gangs in Limerick and Dublin; instead of tackling the core problems of unemployment and deprivation that lead to drug dependency and give rise to gang activity the government is adopting the zero-tolerance approach that has proven to be fatally flawed in the UK and the US. The Blasphemy Bill is one that has arisen from nothing - no one is looking for it, it addresses no immediate need and the country has done quite well without for the last 72 years; quite why the government would spend any energy or resources on it at this particular point in time is beyond baffling.

More than ever I am convinced that the government continues to be completely out of step with the citizenry on so many issues because of the dynastic and hereditary nature of Irish politics. Our political representatives inherit their positions from their parents and spouses, and have no real skill, talent or aptitude for the job. They are elected on the basis of familial pedigree and lineage, and while in years gone by a theoretically strong and independent civil service has been able to keep the country afloat by pasting over the cracks caused by ministerial ineptitude, the deformities bred into our political classes by their Fibonacciesque multiplications are starting to bring the whole house of cards tumbling down around us.

If our current system of representative democracy is to be preserved (and I am not wedded to it myself in any way), a clean sweep of the decks is needed to allow it any chance to succeed. At the Green party conference earlier this year a motion was unsuccessfully tabled to prohibit any immediate relative of a politician to stand for the Green Party as their relative's immediate successor. The best thing that could happen to Irish politics would be to see a similar motion enacted as national law.

Well, not the best thing, but the best thing within the existing system of representative parliamentary democracy.



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