Posted by Dan O’Brien
Reading this blog in recent weeks and Elaine Byrne’s piece in Tuesday’s Irish Times, it strikes me that while anti-intellectualism has long been a feature of Irish life, it seems that even the intellectual class in Ireland is hostile to ideas. Some thoughts.
First, last weekend a conference was held on constitutional reform in UCD. One of the organisers, Eoin Carolan, stated on this blog that it was organised “partly because we wanted to allow people an opportunity to respond to a lot of the patent nonsense on the Aftershock programme”. Quite apart from the fact that serious people ignore “patent nonsense” (there’s far too much of it about and they have better things to do), the description of the ideas, including reform of the voting system and the method of executive formation, as “patent nonsense“ is very strange.
Second, I find it astonishing that an event organised “partly” to respond to specific ideas does not invite the people who have put forward those ideas (I was not approached and Justine McCarthy only received an invitation on the day of the event without reference to the show). This is more reminiscent of academic life in the Soviet Union circa the 1960s than that of an inquisitive, questioning free society today.
Finally, one of the two suggestions I put forward in Aftershock was to change Ireland’s very unusual method of executive formation. It seems the matter was not discussed at the event in any depth. Much more widely, neither the political science nor constitutional law communities shows any real interest in this issue. This is very puzzling. To ignore the relationship between executive formation and government performance would, in economics, be akin to ignoring the relationship between, say, capital formation and economic performance.
Almost no other democracy has so little separation between the executive and legislative branches. That this issue, and its implications for the quality of governance, receives so little attention suggests, if not a hostility to reform and re-evaluation, then at the very least a lack of interest in them.