26 September 2011

Illuminations and observations (Presidential Interlude)

A metaphor waiting to happen
Farrow of Wild Boar, Mitchelstown Co Cork, September 2011
Whilst you may all have come to know and love the occasional political fervour that grips us here at Booming Back, wherein we have been known to travel thousands of miles to attend a political rally in a foreign country because nothing much of import had been happening here at home, even if you have not, no doubt, you will have been wondering why we have been so quiet of late on the subject of our own Presidential Election when we have, in times gone by, been extremely vocal on the elections of others.

"Surely," I hear you cry, "with all the intrigues, horse-trading and general goings-on involved with the nomination process alone, surely you must be happy as a pig in muck?"

Would that my head were so easily turned.

The truth of the matter is that while the Kafka-esque process by which our Presidential ballot paper is being composed does have a certain discrete charm, I have such a problem with the existence of the Office of the President itself that I can wring little joy from the near hourly updates that Twitter pings across my desktop.

We are a small country governed by a dynastic ruling class, Dáil seats are handed down from father to son and husband to wife and the Senead is an unelected holding pen, a second chance for party hacks on the way up or the way out who have failed to convince the electorate to pick them over their brother. The Presidency is the embodiment of this nepotistic system, designed to fail from its very inception by the framers of the 1937 Constitution under instruction from Dev who saw it as his natural retirement home. It is virtually powerless, and yet when what limited authority it does have is exercised a national crises ensues. Old men go there to die, and women go to smile and wave, wringing their hands in angst as they slowly drown in tea and sympathy.

The last few weeks may have shone a spotlight on the farcically undemocratic nature of the nomination process, but this sudden illumination blinds us all to the inherently undemocratic nature of the position itself.

It exists to do nothing, an existential contradiction at its core that contaminates any well-meaning attempts by an incumbent to break free from their Government-sanctioned bonds, and thus we need the Office of the President in this country as much as we need an Upper House of Parliament, which is to say not at all without fundamental change to its nature and essence so drastic as to render it unrecognizable. If either body existed outside of the party political system, chosen by and from the citizenry themselves as opposed to the ruling aristocracy, with genuine powers of parliamentary or constitutional oversight that could in actuality hold a Government accountable to the will of the people, then there might be an argument for its continued existence, but even then given our population size of under five million it would still be debatable.

Thus while I do sincerely hope Senator David Norris succeeds in being nominated and ultimately elected, in truth I find it hard to project any enthusiasm; the election is akin to being told that wild boar tastes better than pig when you are a vegetarian, the entire subject itself is deeply unappealing and lipsticking up an individual candidate before you slice them into rashers seems both barbaric and offensive.

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