Even though the country is on the brink of an abyss, perhaps this is also a time to look at the opportunities.
I think we need to change not only our politics, but our entire society, beginning with ourselves.
It seems to me that our society and our political system have now proven themselves utterly incapable of delivering the sort of leadership or management needed for Ireland to survive in the modern world. We need to find new ways of electing leaders with a global vision, instead of the glorified county councillors we currently return to our national parliament. To my way of thinking, that means we need to reform the system we use now : the single transferable vote in multi-seater constituencies, because it gives rise to the worst sort of blinkered political clientelism. It gave the world Willie O Dea and Jackie Healy-Rae.
We need ministers with ability, knowledge and skill. At present, the people who head our multi-billion departments are selected from a tiny pool of about 80 people, most of whom have no expertise in anything except talking nonsense and backstabbing political opponents. Every minister in the history of this state has tried to bestow largesse on his local constituency without regard to the greater good of the country and this is simply not acceptable any more, if it ever was acceptable. I think we need a way of co-opting high-quality people into a working cabinet — people who aren’t hamstrung by local parish-pump concerns and who aren’t beholden to anyone. To put it another way, I think our government departments need capable chief executives.
After the lies of the past week, it’s obvious that we must shake off our age-old tradition of never telling the truth. Our people don’t believe the government, and the world at large, with good reason, doesn’t believe any of us. I think we need a new vision, and a different way of seeing ourselves in the world. We need to take responsibility and we need to grow up because the party is well and truly over. We need to learn lessons from the Scandinavians, the Dutch and the Germans who are utterly baffled by our behaviour. Let’s stop being infantile once and for all.
We need to build accountability from the ground up, and we need to foster a culture of complete intolerance for stroke-pulling in every aspect of our lives. Our small-minded venal attitude to personal honesty feeds into a culture at government level of trying to get the most out of our neighbours while giving back as little as possible.
We need to abandon the passivity that has been drilled into us for generations through our church-dominated schools system and start to act like grown adults. We need to turn our backs on these false authority figures from whom we have been taking orders since the foundation of this state.
We need to walk away from the cloying, grá-mo-chroí, saccharine image we created of lovable rogues and start to act like solid adults instead of always looking for a fool’s pardon, so that maybe eventually our neighbours will start to develop some respect for us. Enough shamrock shit.
It won’t be easy. Thinking for yourself is never easy, but I don’t believe we have any other option, and maybe finally, when we grow up, we’ll deserve the key of the door that the adults foolishly gave us before we were ready for it.
If we can take on these challenges and others like them, I think we might emerge a better country from the experience. I’d welcome people’s suggestions on this, but let me offer a small health warning. If anyone is thinking of sending in the usual complaints, with no positive suggestions, those comments will simply be deleted. I’m not in the mood for people venting about this. I want to hear genuine, practical suggestions, not demands for retribution.
While such sentiments might satisfy an atavistic urge for revenge, they won’t solve anything, and though I must admit that I’d like to see certain people strung up on lamp-posts, the reality is that we do not need mob rule. We need logic. Therefore, the best we can hope for in that regard is a Truth Commission where people who created this catastrophe finally confront their role.
Much though it irks me to say it, along with imagination to bring us out of this mess, we also need forgiveness, unless we want our country to go through another century of dysfunctional, paralysing bitterness similar to that caused by the Civil War.
UPDATE A reader brought this to my attention. 2nd Republic. Worth visiting.