We must move from regarding State as enemy and oppressor

Last week The Irish Times
published the late Peter Mair’s excellent speech at MacGill this year (about 30 minutes in).

Mair argued that the problem in Ireland is that we don’t respect our State. We have never respected our State. We have never had a sense of belonging for our State. If anything we have viewed the State as the enemy, as an oppressor, as something not to be trusted but to be taken advantage of.
“That’s the culture of the cute hoors, the strokes, you get away with it and getting away with it against the State is getting away with something which is not us and doesn’t belong to us but belongs somewhere out there and it is not ours”
Interestingly, Mair had a number of solutions. Perhaps controversially in his sights was the electoral system or what he called amoral localism – which is that you do anything you can to benefit your locality and your constituency and your district, and your TD will do anything he can to benefit your locality and your district and your constituency and, in a sense, damn everything else
The result he says is that we have been so busy as citizens in ensuring the representation of our own interests and those of our constituencies that we have lost sight of the broader, collective interest, ….. We exert great control over our TDs [but] have never sought to exert any control over our governments. This is not a new argument for readers of this blog but his solutions are worth considering.
1.Reform the electoral system
2. Change the Dáil. End the quiescence
3. Give real power to local government.

Internet Win – Wikipedia entry on ‘Citizens’ Assembly’

I recall studying the Enlightenment in West European history and being fascinated by Diderot’s Encyclopédie project. It was an amazing effort and achievement in its own right, but can really only be understood in the broader context of Enlightement goals and values, perhaps best explained by Kant in his essay: ‘An Answer to the Question: “What is Enlightenment?”

Kant explains his thesis in an admirably succint manner in the essay’s first line: ‘Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity’. Knowledge and reason can allow us to take greater control of our own individual and collective destiny – rather than remaining passive and fearful. However, one’s capacity to learn is limited by available resources, and the media is often skewed in its presentation of the political world.

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The Importance of Political Education – knowing left from right

A very interesting article in today’s Irish Times discusses whether Europe should focus on education in its engagement with Africa. The article argues that political education is vitally important for all sorts of social and political outputs:

‘Individual Africans need to become more politically sophisticated. It is hard to think of a political party in Africa which genuinely professes, let alone practises, a coherent political philosophy. Whereas parties in Europe espouse socialist, liberal or Christian democratic values, there is no indigenous African ideology beyond tribalism. Political parties are more often than not built around a commanding personality who offers tribal leadership and is rewarded with uncritical tribal loyalty’ .

The description of African politics rings some surprising bells for students of Irish politics.

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Peter Mair

Post by David Farrell (August 16 2011)

Today I received the awful news that my mentor, colleague and friend, Professor Peter Mair had passed away while on one of his regular family holidays in Ireland. He will be known to many readers of this blog for his writings and speeches on Irish politics (for a recent posting, see here). A good example was his pin-dropping speech at this year’s MacGill Summer School – a perfectly pitched overview of what’s wrong with our political culture and what should change (he was the third speaker in this stream; see also here). Continue reading

So, what’s next?

Post by David Farrell (August 13, 2011)

As reported in earlier posts on this blog, this government has made some quite impressive progress on implementing the political reform proposals proposed in its Programme for Government. They’ve made a good start. But, arguably most of this has been the low-hanging fruit, the relatively easy targets. We’ve still to see the real meat of reform. Continue reading

Time to review the system of parliamentary expenses

Post by David Farrell (August 2, 2011)

Today’s Irish Independent has good coverage of the situation regarding expenses for TDs and Senators. The details of how the ‘unvouched’ system works is usefully explained here; and this article reports on just how much expense have been drawn down by certain members, showing that more than 20% of those TDs who ‘sign-in’ (i.e. as being actually ‘in the House’) missed a fifth of more of the votes that took place in the House at the time. As discussed in a previous post on this site (see here), the current system is wide open to abuse. Surely now is as good a time as any to urgently review the system and replace it with something more transparent.