The 30th Annual MacGill Summer School: Reforming the Republic: Issues of Politics, Economics & Accountability

The Summer School will analyse the political, economic and administrative systems that have allowed our economy to be brought to its knees and will propose solutions.  The nature and structures of our parliamentary democracy and our political culture will come under particular scrutiny. Questions will be asked as to how and why our political and economic institutions were unable to foresee the extent of the current crisis or were incapable of taking or were unwilling to take measures that might have diminished the gravity of it.  In the wake of the publication of the Honohan report and of the Regling/Watson report there is no longer any doubt but that this crisis is a domestic crisis fuelled by excessive and reckless foreign borrowing by our financial institutions which was used to fund an out of control construction industry at the expense of other sectors of the economy.

2009 revealed the seriousness of the country’s economic situation when our banking system was on the brink of collapse, construction ground to a halt, consumer confidence practically disappeared, unemployment soared and two harsh budgets had to be implemented in order to prevent a colossal public debt from spiralling to a point where the whole national economy would collapse.

As a result of the fiscal measures implemented  by the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, the situation has stabilised somewhat, the economic outlook for 2010 is not quite so gloomy and there are even signs of an upturn. However, with businesses still closing down, tens of thousands of people in the dole queues, house owners struggling to repay large mortgages, our banking system still in deep crisis and a national debt of alarming proportions,  the light at the end of the tunnel is, for the moment at least, barely a flicker.  There is still plenty of bitter medicine to be swallowed in this year and in the years ahead before our economy can be restored to full health.

Questions remain as to how we have arrived at this point, how the economy was brought to such a crisis point in such a short space of time.  Why, for example, was spending allowed to continue unabated at the same time as tax revenue was falling? Why was the gradual but relentless erosion of our competitiveness and our over reliance on construction allowed to proceed without intervention resulting in a deeper crisis than might otherwise have been?  Why has public sector reform, discussed and analysed in numerous reports for years, not been implemented and its services streamlined, modernised and made cost effective and competitive?  What in our political system encourages re-election to be the dominant concern of our public representatives, including government ministers, sometimes to the detriment of the overall national interest, particularly in the run up period to elections.   How can this system be regulated and reformed?  Is the political system geared to producing sufficiently qualified personnel capable of governing?  Where are accountability and responsibility in our overall system of political, social and economic governance?  And what about the electorate baying for more and better public services whilst at the same time resistant to paying higher taxes?

The by now widely acknowledged need for institutional and political reform of the way in which our state is run as well as the future development of our economy will be top of the agenda of the 2010 MacGill School on the occasion of its thirtieth anniversary.

Joe Mulholland, Director.

More details here. The programme is available here.

One thought on “The 30th Annual MacGill Summer School: Reforming the Republic: Issues of Politics, Economics & Accountability

  1. The problem is not just the framework of goverance being rotten to the core it is also the Irish mindset toward politics and accountability.

    To address the root cause of why we tolerate such low standards in every aspect of society and why we never ever hold anyone to account, means we need to go into the mists of time and face up to the fact that we have always been a corrupt people.

    The entire Gaelic system was built on the sleveen me fein mentality and that you were only loyal to someone for as long as they can do something for you – look at the experience of one of the later Earls of Desmond and how he was betrayed the moment it was clear he could no longer provide the goodies to them.

    Add in a few centuries of misrule, the famine and then 1916. In more recent history factor in the civil war caused by one man’s ego refusing to accept he lost an argument, who then defrauded shareholders of the Irish Press, and set up a political party – the rot in Irish society didn’t start when CJH became leader of Fianna Fáil.

    To get past this current mess and avoid another one, we have to confront our past and find out what is it that makes such a large portion of people vote for the type of candidates Fianna Fáil provides and what is it that those sort of people are attracted to FF in the first place.

    Then when we address that issue we can then start to rebuild, because even if we change the way goveranace is carried out unless we change the mentality of those in government and the civil service and business and the professions and the church and in wider society, then nothing will change and the next crook chosen by Fianna Fáil will reek even more damage in another 20 years.

    But it seems no has the guts to start that conversation and instead we are meant to play along and pretend it was just a small group of people who created all of this mess. A small group profited the most but a much larger group of the population colluded in allowing them to do so and if proof were ever needed that the gombeen sleveen mentality has still got a firm grip the stag hunt vote shows it.

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