Reform is the name of the game these days. Electoral reform. Public sector reform. Parliamentary reform.
I laughed myself sick when I saw Fianna Fáil’s new proposals for reform, now that they’re out of office and won’t be able to profit from cronyism and clientelism for a while. I laughed because it was funny, but the sickness came because their proposals are right, and should have been implemented years ago. Even when making constructive proposals, Fianna Fáil can’t help being cynical: they knew this was the direction Ireland needed, and yet, despite being in government for so long, they did nothing to begin the process until it was plain that they were facing total defeat in the polls.
Suddenly it’s possible to co-opt people into the cabinet to provide the skills necessary to run the country. Suddenly, it’s possible to make ministers independent of constituency pressures – something that would never have worked when gobshites like P Flynn and Bull O Donoghue and Batt the Waffler O Keeffe were showering largesse on the local voters who kept them in office at the expense of constituencies without a minister. So much for a national vision.
Suddenly, in the FF proposal, it’s possible to do away with the pernicious multi-seat constituency that sends glorified county councillors to our parliament and encourages ward-heelers like Willie O Dea to pound the pavements, haunting every stranger’s funeral and christening within pint-buying distance of a public house.
Suddenly it’s all possible – including normal office hours for Dáil sittings.
Isn’t it amazing what becomes possible when the country sees your party as nothing more than a conspiracy of traitors and thieves?
Of course, it isn’t only Fianna Fál pushing reform these days.
Honest people are also talking about it and doing something about it. Two researchers – Joe Curtin and Johnny Ryan – are developing a scorecard with the backing of a panel of leading academics, aiming to measure how well the political parties follow through on their promises to implement reform. (Irish Times articles here and here)
The five areas covered are Legislation, elections, transparency, local government and the public service.
Watch this space. I’ll report progress as it happens.
If you’ve been a frequent visitor here, you’ll know that I’ve been arguing for fundamental reform since this site was started five years ago. In that time, we’ve been shown a vision of Ireland that is neither pretty nor hopeful. Everything from our policing structure to our education system and our healthcare seems to be broken, dysfunctional, corrupt or moribund. Clerics retain an unwarranted degree of influence in the most vital areas such as education and health. Vested interests, including the bankers, have demonstrated that they hold our political leaders by the throat. Doctors and lawyers dictate terms to the State.
Therefore, it seems to me that in addition to the five areas identified by Reformcard, we need to look at fundamental change within our society at every level. We need to look at our naive and childish belief that a politician can help us to jump the queue. We need to re-examine the unquestioned belief that professionals such as doctors, dentists and lawyers are entitled to demand extortionate prices for their services and that poor people are automatically excluded from those services. We need to question why unqualified priests are in control of our primary schools. We need to ask why this State is not a partner in the consortiums extracting energy resources from our territorial waters.
We need to ask why €40 billion of our money has been given to a pair of scams: Anglo-Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide.
These and many more questions need to be asked, and out of the answers we need reform.
We need to decommission the mindset that got us where we are and start acting like grown adults for a change. When the candidates call to your door, don’t ask about potholes. That’s a job for your local councillor.
Ask them what their vision is for a new Ireland. The old one doesn’t work any more, and I doubt it ever did.
The other option is another five years of this: