Why didn’t we riot?

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This is the text of an article published in the Sunday Business Post 22nd December 2013

On the night of 6th December 2008 there were widespread protests against the government in Athens. In one middle class district in the centre of Athens, Exarcheia, there were confrontations with the police. Police were ordered to leave the district, but two policemen decided to stay, parked their car, and followed a group of youths. It’s not clear what happened next, but one of the policemen shot Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a 15 year-old boy from a wealthy family, who attended a private school. This sparked a wave of rioting throughout Greece that lasted a number of weeks.

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Looking to 2016 – How stands the Republic?

Post on behalf of Joe Mulholland

The papers presented at the 2013 MacGill Summer School are now available to read (see here).

For several years now, and especially since the sudden and brutal fall of the Celtic Tiger, the MacGill School has focussed on reform of the institutions of the state – political, social and economic. With webcasting and the sterling work of our colleagues in broadcasting and the press, this message goes far beyond the conference hall. As has been pointed out many times at MacGill, radical reform of our politics and governance in general has to be a priority if we are not to have recurring crises of the kind we are living painfully through at this time and it has to come from the bottom up. Continue reading

The Irish Constitutional Convention illustrates how ordinary citizens can play their part in the process after all

ccvenPost by Harry McGee, political correspondent The Irish Times. This article originally appeared in the Connacht Tribune, 12 June 2013

I have to say I was sceptical about the notion of a citizens’ assembly becoming part of official political discourse in Ireland. The idea is that rather than getting politicians to decide on new political direction, you get a representative group of people drawn from all strands of society – getting the demographics and geographics right, as Bertie Ahern kept on saying.

To me it seemed like an indulgence to political scientists – telling them all their Christmases had come Continue reading

Professional politicians and political reform. (Matt Wall)

A couple of interesting stories in the Irish media today caused me to re-consider the notion that political reform should be the exclusive domain of elected politicians. With their electoral mandates, experience of the day-to-day functioning of political institutions and (in Ireland, at least) their exclusive right to initiate constitutional change, our professional politicians certainly have more claim than most other social groups or organisations to take the lead on this issue.

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40 Dead Men Walking: Self-interest prods disinterested political elite into action on the Seanad debate.

John Drennan’s Sindo article points to growing backbench opposition to the government’s proposed referendum on abolishing the Seanad. This development is unsurprising, given the tightness of electoral margins in Ireland’s political system and the personal investment of Oireachtas members in retaining their positions (although, as we all know, the pension’s not too bad if you do get the boot). However, the naked self-interest on display in this debate is enough to sicken even a seasoned observer of the venality of the Irish political class.

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Dan O’Brien on seperating the roles of TD and Minister

Interesting article from Dan O’Brien in the Irish Times here, flagged up by Paul Hunt in a comment. Should Ministers also be TDs? A response that usually comes from the political system on this is that there is provision to nominate 2 ministers via the Seanad, though this very rarely happens. Would having a minister with a shred of economic training in the Finance portfolio have led to a better decision on the bank guarantee? Certainly, a little expertise couldn’t have hurt, the apocryphal image the late Minister Lenihan taking a crash course in economics while chewing raw garlic in David MacWilliams’ kitchen comes to mind.

Anyway, perhaps another issue that the Constitutional Convention should consider but won’t, unless it radically expands its agenda via the ’8th item’ (all other issues).

Constitutional Convention Debate on Tonight With Vincent Browne on TV3 (posted by Matt Wall)

Really interesting debate on the government’s plans to involve citizens in Irish constitutional reform with contributions from: this site’s Elaine Byrne, Conor O’Mahony, a constitutional law expert from UCC, and Oliver Moran from the Second Republic civil society group. Labour’s Alex White gamely defending the government’s performance and plans to date – though he was batting on a sticky wicket on many specific points. I get the feeling that many Labour members are feeling rather shortchanged on their party’s campaign promise to completely re-write the Constitution by 2016. If you didn’t catch it last night, it’s well worth a watch on the TV3 player.

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Credit where it’s due to the government – and some thoughts on gender quotas. By Matt Wall

So I recently learned that  The Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011 will soon be passed as law. Looks like some really progressive stuff, especially when you look at the ongoing hyper monetization of politics that is taking place in the usa. I can’t wait to see the parties publish comprehensive accounts, which should let the media, academia, and general public keep a closer eye on how we fund our politics.

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