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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Maternity Leave for Women Parliamentarians: Issues and Proposals

article-1314283-0B4D596E000005DC-686_634x373By Claire McGing, NUI Maynooth

Parliaments, of which the Dáil and Seanad are no exception, are highly gendered institutions. Since the rules were written by men at a time in which women were not expected to participate in politics, the very norms, rules and culture of parliament conform to a male lifestyle. This is why the idea of maternity leave in politics is a problematic, at times controversial, one – lengthy periods away from office for child-bearing don’t ‘fit’ with institutional notions of representative democracy as politicians weren’t really meant to get pregnant in the first place. But, if the will is there, parliaments can be reconceptualised and reformed to catch up with the gendered realities of modern society.

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A new political culture will require a more open relationship between citizens and the political system

angloGuest post by Sarah O’Neill, founder Dailwatch.ie

For many, last week’s AngloTapes have reinforced a sense of cynicism in the political system and confirmed their rationale for disengaging from the political process. The conversation between two Anglo’s senior managers suggests that the banks had the upper hand in negotiations with government leaders and reveals an arrogance among the bank’s officials in considering the repercussions of their actions. However, outrage and blame are temporary and without independent, transparent mechanisms for ensuring accountability within our political system, we are at danger of sleep-walking into yet another crisis. 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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Some thoughts on ‘Inside the department’ – posted by Matt Wall

A link here to the RTE Player’s version of ‘Inside the Department’, a documentary that provides some interesting insights into the realities of governance in today’s Ireland. Among other things, it documents the difficulty of leading a department that you have verbally eviscerated in opposition (“malevolently dysfunctional” is a particularly good catchphrase).

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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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Mahon: transparency vital in future

From Nuala Haughey, Advocacy and Research Officer, Transparency International Ireland

As the Mahon report rightly states, corruption thrives in shadows and darkness. The twilight world of political finances – and the toxic nexus between business and political parties – is an obvious area where the disinfectant properties of sunlight are much needed.

The Mahon report echoes the Moriarty report in emphasising that disclosure must be the bedrock of all attempts to control corruption risks associated with money in politics.

Transparency International Ireland believes that detailed disclosure by political parties and candidates of assets, income and expenditures, together with adequate oversight and enforcement, is the starting point of any decent regulatory framework. Continue reading

The Need to Change Our Political Culture is Paramount

Pat Leahy (posted by David Farrell, October 28, 2011)

Here is the text of Sunday Business Post’s Pat Leahy’s remarks to the 2011 Kenmare Economics conference

The Irish economic crash has been turbo charged by a profound failure of our politics and our political system to comprehend the economic realities of the world, to be self-aware, to regulate its own desires and ultimately to practise good government

Moreover these failures are represented at every level of the political system, from government ministers to TDs, to the political and wider media that regulate and conduct our national debate, to local authorities to individual voters. They also, I am afraid, extend to economists.

These failures happened not just because of a series of bad policy decisions, but because of something much deeper than that: because they reflect our political culture. Continue reading