Monday, February 14, 2011

Ireland - Political Reform

Let me first divulge that I have no party affiliation, nor do I support any particular party. I considered running as an Independent but for personal reason's I decided against running. I would love to setup a non profit organisation whose sole purpose is to educate people on politics, informing people more and most importantly encouraging/promoting ethics and morals in our political elite.

It's interesting listening to all the political parties mention "political reform". It is such a broad statement (like much political rhetoric) and when scrutinised is more subjective then anything else depending on the party you follow. I personally think there are several ways of determining what kind of change we need and why it would benefit Ireland in the longer term.

The concept that we need political change and the very fact that its awknowledged by those in power (and those looking to get into power) clearly begs the question why is it only now , at election time, that the importance of true reform is being highlighted. For me its ironic that part of the change needed in politics is for an end to the usual flurry of parties looking to attach their names to populist idea's. I certainly believe that the whole excitement that incoming parties are showing in relation to political reform is little more then a token nod to the anger people are feeling towards Irish Politics.

The kind of change we need is radical, revolutionary almost and I think its first and foremost important that we change the way we think and the reasons why we choose to vote a certain way. Many people in this country have gotten used to thinking that they are entitled to certain things and that they can pass the book of blame to others. Please indulge me on this . .

The entitlement culture was born from a friendly Dub who only offered gifts to anybody who stood in his way. The cutest of all the hooer's that this country has ever seen. He gave everybody what they wanted and thought little of the consequences so it was only natural that when some of it had to be taken back, people would be dismayed at losing what they felt was rightfully theirs. Public service salaries, social welfare recipients, Pensioners, everybody was up in arms. It is no surprise that the Pensioner's (highest proportion of voters) and the public service (over 300,000 potential voters) have been the one's who have been most protected from the harsh realities of the economic downturn (to date). You dont have to agree with my views to accept that this highlights the fact that our government will bow to those who feel they are entitled to certain things at the expense of the rest of us , once the votes are there.

Some people think that Fianna Fail (FF) and their voters are the main reason we are in this economic mess. I agree that FF certainly need to eat a large portion of the blame cake on this one and will not in anyway defend their poor judgement over the last few years. However if one looks at why people voted for FF and the perceived lame alternative , I cannot really understand how people can point fingers at FF supporters. Not just that, something that Labour and FG supporters love to spout is that their parties had nothing to do with the bubble, forgetting that many of their people held Councellor Positions that had the power to rezone land for development. Not just that, I didnt hear either party promise to reign in spending or bring in more prudent regulation back in 2007 when they were promising the sun , moon and the stars.

Neither of these paragraphs were written to upset or point fingers, they were used to highlight the problem that the people of Ireland seem to have with growing up and taking responsibility for the decisions they made and the subsequent ramifications of these decisions. Indeed in 2007 if any candidate had of called to houses saying that they were going to raise taxes and bring in harsher regulation for banks lending practises they would of been laughed off most doorsteps. With this in mind people cant blame parties for trying to give the people exactly what they wanted as these kind of candidates wouldnt of had the opportunity to implement these required actions.

I always find it funny when people slag off politics in this country as I believe that the politicians and government we have mirror's ourselves, whether we like it or not. People who vote for talentless , local politicians deserve nothing better then the kind of failure we have seen over the last few years. Personally if each area succeeded or declined based on the national success of their politician we might not see quite as many innapropriate politicians holding office.

Ok. I could go on forever, but as a start here are a few things I would lke to see in terms of true political reform:

  • Proper disciplinary process for politicians found to be out of line
  • To compliment this there should be Proper accountability procedures in the Dail and in upper level management of the public service (is anybody not concerned that the same public servants advising our existing government on economic/health issues will be allowed advise the next government!)
  • Either give the Seanad powers or get rid of it.
  • Take the abililty of parties/Taoiseach to award certain jobs away. Most jobs should be advertised and proper process to get the right people for the right jobs.
  • Ministers have to have some sort of backround in the position they take up (eg - Minister for education - some sort of experience in teaching etc (Enda Kenny anybody?)
  • End to the whip system, although this requires inter party agreement that politicians will vote for things that they agree with (instead of just voting against things because they are in opposition). Alot to ask for, but this requires a change of attitude and culture within politics.
  • Full disclosure. This prevents the kind of arrogance we have seen from FF in relation to informing the Irish People of the problems facing the country , the potential solutions and an analysis on which alternatives are most beneficial to the Irish People.
  • Looking at a way to reduce the importance of banks in Irish Society. I predict that there will be at least one more bank scandal/crash in my lifetime and that the Irish taxpayer will be left footing the bill if something is not done to make sure that there is never a financial institution big enough to be of systemic importance like the banks we had. The fear of Moral hazzard has to be brought back into the boardroom of our banks for the Irish Taxpayer to be safe.

When you start to accept that this is as good as it gets, when you accept second best that is all you will ever get. We need more leaders with the courage to match their convictions to step forward. The concept of Moral leadership is met with derision by many party supporters I speak to as they fail to believe that true political reform is possible (ie there will always be one party that will revert to immoral practises to get into power). I get called politically naieve simply because I believe in constantly looking for better. I can accept somebody doing the right thing for the right reasons, I cant accept somebody doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. As an electorate we have been very slow to properly judge politicians who have, at best, been involved in questionable antics from a moral/ethical perspective. Not just that, many politicians who have shown little more then the ability to fill in a pothole or get a good road for a local community have been rewarded, irresponsibly in my view. We have councellors for local issue's and politicians for National issue's, some people need to learn this.

Does anybody reading this really believe that seasoned politicians motives are mainly out of the greater good of the country ? Dont get me wrong, I believe that most politicians have good intentions and most intend on doing good when they get into politics. The problem is as much the culture within politics as it is certain cowboys manipulating the flawed system to justify their expenses decisions.

Some people will agree with bits and disagree with others, but the concept of political reform has to be clarified before somebody should support a certain party. The people of Ireland need to stop pointing fingers and looking for others to bail them out and start taking responsibility for the state of the country. Only then will we be able to progress, stronger and more able. We need a revolution in the way people think and we need to push for true change. Right now people are asking what their country can do for them as opposed to what they can do for their country. Demanding better for our country can mean putting the interests of the Country ahead of our own interests. This, I feel, could prove to be the greatest hurdle we have to overcome for true reform and proper progression as a democratic society.

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