by David Farrell (November 17, 2010)
Now that the EU/IMF are en route it can only be a matter of time before the pretence that we’re not being bailed out is dropped. In due course we will learn just how painful things are about to become for each one of us. Already the economists are debating whether in the short term much will change: as Michael Breen suggested in an earlier post, we might not notice that much of a difference (at least in the short term).
There have also been some (among them the Latvian ambassador to Ireland) who have argued that the bailout will not represent a loss of sovereignty – the argument being that by signing up to EU membership and its ever-deepening commitments we’ve already gone down the road of ‘sharing sovereignty’. Is that correct? It’s one thing to agree to abide by decisions taken by consensus or even by majority vote, it’s quite another to have outsiders pour over our books and effectively dictate terms (on this, see for example the statement of the Dutch finance ministers when door stepped in Brussels yesterday). In short, this is a loss of sovereignty – even if only short term. The state may, in many respects, still run as before: the government controls foreign policy; the trains still run; we all go to work every day (those of us lucky enough to be still in jobs). But in one fundamental respect we are no longer masters of our own destiny: finance matters are now a matter for others to determine; at best all our government can do is try to negotiate favourable terms. The long held adage of Politics that we should ‘follow the money’ shows just what a watershed moment this is: the money is no longer (for now at any rate) ours to determine.
Can there ever be a more appropriate time to consider major political reform? The loss of economic sovereignty marks the death knell of Bunreacht na h’Éireann: the first ‘Republic’ has failed its citizens. Surely now we should give serious consideration to how we might design a New Republic fit for the current century – and, this time, let’s make it one designed by the people for the people.