Announcement of a Claiming Our Future event



Individuals and organizations from the full breadth of civil society will explore new ideas on democracy and share their thinking with each other on how to reinvent our democracy. Register now and join the discussion in Croke Park.
This debate is urgent as economic crisis deepens the fault lines in our already flawed democracy.
Distrust in our local democracy is evident in the refusal to pay the household charge. The power of our national government is subservient to international financial institutions and markets. A democratic deficit is apparent in the negotiation and content of the new European fiscal compact treaty.
Funding cuts to community groups have diminished democracy by limiting their capacity to articulate the interests of those living in poverty and inequality. The limited agenda proposed for the Constitutional Convention exposes the lack of energy in our democracy.
We need a ‘high energy’ democracy if we are to emerge from crisis and flourish as a society. We need a democracy that can raise the temperature of politics, develop alternative social and economic models, and embrace both representative and participative forms of democracy.



21 thoughts on “Announcement of a Claiming Our Future event

  1. It’s not clear who the affiliated and sponsoring bodies, associations and organisations are, but it is pretty clear that these are representatives of the ‘raid, tax and spend’ brigade. Their self-serving rank hypocrisy, disingenuousness and outright obstructionism when it comes to meaningful structural reform should be exposed, confronted and defeated via the democratic process.

  2. Paul,
    Taking great swipes at those in Claiming of our Future without knowing who they represent is unfair.
    Early in 2010 Is Feidir Linn, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, environmental groups, the Community Platform, Social Justice Ireland and TASC began a series of meetings to explore how best to cooperate and coordinate endeavours for a more equal, inclusive and sustainable Ireland. From this beginning, Claiming Our Future evolved. It has gone on to include many different organisations such as trade unions, environmental groups, community groups, migrant worker organisations, youth groups, older people’s organisations, cultural groups, student groups, developing world groups, rural networks, women’s organisations, disability groups, social media and social justice organisations. It is not a political party and does not intend to become one.
    The “‘raid, tax and spend brigade” as you put it sounds decidedly like our Cabinet!

    • @Rodge Arbuckle,

      Thank you for confirming that it is, indeed, the ‘raid, tax and spend’ brigade – cunningly and disingenuously concealing its real intentions by pulling in support from the earnest, but misguided and naive, and from those representing the widows and orphans, the aged and infirm – and exploiting widespread and understandable disaffection with the politcial process.

      There is no requirement for ‘alternative social and economic models’, as this shower claims. But there is a requirement to have a mature and sensible public debate about where the boundaries of the state should lie, about the role of private enterprise and markets and about the process of political governance required to ensure a balance between the interests of producers (in the broadest sense) and those of consumers and citizens collectively.

      But this is the last thing this shower wants, as it would expose thier real agenda. Citizens beware.

  3. So, more theoretical discussions of future political/social arrangements. Great. How many Claiming Our Future meetings have their been so far since 2010? And, what has been their net result? Zilch (in the real world).

    Are the vast majority of citizens even aware of these talk-fests?

    I find these “reform” meetings interesting; interesting in that they seem to lead nowhere, are ignored by politicans and have no fixed agenda (what would victory for “Claiming Our Future” look like?). What precisely do “Claiming Our Future” hope to achieve? Theorise their way to a better future? Publish yet more “reform” documents? I expect the establishment are quaking in their boots!

    We read that they are not a political party, so how exactly do they intend to change anything (when they have no power, are so far from it, and have no agenda by which to achieve it). We read that Trade Unions are involved in this event, and yet the party of the Trade Unions, The Labour Party, is actually in government, yet doing its best now to ignore the whole “reform” agenda. Is this not bizarre?

    And, all this in an Ireland in deep recession, in crisis.

    Would the Trade Unions, etc. not be better off engaging in more direct action, action more related to the real world, not engaging in more “hot air”.

    One must actually wonder at the agenda of those who organise these events and what their funding source is, A cynic might see these meetings as a way of diverting enthusiastic political minded people into dead-ends of endless discussion.

    If talk could solve things, Ireland would be the most perfect country in the world. We do little else. The “Claiming Our Future” events are proof of this. After all, we all know, roughly, the outline of what needs to change in this country. It does not need endless discussion to tease out every last nuance before action is taken, does it? What action in pursuit of concrete reform do “Claiming Our Future” intend to take? A stern letter to The irish Times, another Opinion column in the same newspaper?

    • @Seabhac Siúlach,

      + 1

      This lot were pampered throughout by ‘social partnership’ and they really were in clover after Bertie had his Inchydoney moment and found his ‘inner socialist’. They’re determined to keep the gravy flowing at all costs. This is just part of their broader campaign to counter the necessary fiscal adjustment and to obstruct any of the much-needed structural reforms that might derial the gravy-train.

      I have always felt reasonably confident that a majority of sound and sensible citizens would always be able to see through them and reject their antics, but this unnecessary fiscal compact referendum is allowing them to build up a head of steam – and they’re being exceptionally hypocritical, disingenuous and cunning – and I fear that the heads of usually sound and sensible citizens are being turned.

  4. “All that dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandle-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking towards the smell of “progress” like bluebottles to a dead cat”

    J Orwell. ‘Road to Wigan Pier’.

    Its simple, its basic and it deadly. If you spend more than your income, your bust! Tax income is declining because less folk are employed and consumption is also down. Hence our government has a predicament. Spend less and balance the books, or “continue-as-you-are” and borrow to sustain the unsustainable. They have chosen the latter. This ends badly.

    Now please tell me how Re-claiming Our Democracy is advanced by not accepting truth. Are folk not capable of basic arithmetic? Appears they are not. Do they any idea what economic growth actually is? Appears they do not. This ends badly.

  5. Another thought has occurred to me. I doubt very much if it is a coincidence that this event is scheduled on the last weekend before the referendum.

  6. If you spend more than your income you’re bust..agreed! But when someone else spends more than you will ever earn and then expects you to pay the bill… are truly BUST. This is where we are. Talk will not solve things but the communication of alternative ideas should not be feared.

  7. @Seabhac “After all, we all know, roughly, the outline of what needs to change in this country. ”

    I agree that without an action plan they (COF) are generating hot air in the face of political inaction from the Irish Labour Party in particular.

    However despite your insistence that we all know “what needs to change” I have seen no clearly agreed list of what needs to change to reform our political system from any group funded or unfunded.
    There is no clear list agreed by an umbrella group of political academics etc.

    The only easily accessible list of political reforms which exists is the one in the Programme for Government.

    As regards COF not becoming a political party. Politics is fundamentally discredited in this State- we have one of the lowest membership level of political parties in the OECD.

  8. Loving the really constructive comments here from Paul and Seabhac in particular. God forbid those interested in political reform in this country get together to discuss the matter.

    Fair enough if you disagree with the manner in which the Claiming Our Future are going about things but would it not be more helpful to leave the hyperbole aside and suggest the alternative route through which those interested in reform should take?

    I have no connection with COF but I think it could have the potential to come up with clear and well thought out suggestions of reforms to deal with institutional problems in our democracy which are highly unlikely to be generated by any government themselves due to the power dynamics involved. It seems to me that having a group outside the political arena that can highlight some of the reforms needed and communicate this with the electorate could potentially have a positive impact.

    Yes it may not have any impact in the end but it seems a bit harsh to slate people for trying.

    • @Anonymous,

      Absolutely no problem with people getting together to discuss political reform. In fact I’m all in favour of it. My problem with this CoF lot is not that I can smell a hidden agenda; I can actually discern the outline – they’re not being particularly coy.

      The problem is that we have all the trappings of a fully democratic polity – a constitution, fully free and fair elections, elected local governance, a three house parliament – with even a directly elected head of state, a government elected by one house of parliament that is theoretically accountable to parliament, an independent judiciary, a largely uncorrupted, but excessively expansive and generally unaccountable, state apparatus, a free press, a multitude of civil society associations, etc., – but the reality is that we have government, exercising excessive executive dominance, and an excessively expansive and centralised government machine, with both captured almost completely by an array of narrow sectional economic interests and with the elected government almost always being forced to confront voters directly en masse without the effective mediation that a properly functioning parliament and local governance would provide.

      This will continue – and the economy will sink further in to the mire – until enough voters demand that their TDs discharge their responsibilities in terms of re-asserting the primacy of parliament over government and establishing effective local governance. TDs will only do what the people want them to do if they live in fear of not being re-elected should they fail to respond to their constituents’ demands.

      These are the only reforms that are required. All the rest will follow, because the institutions are already in place. They just need to be made to work.

      • Okay so you are essentially saying that people need to get more involved in electoral democracy in this country? I would totally agree.

        I still don’t see your problem with COF. I don’t think being involved in COF and confronting your elected officials are mutually exclusive. If anything surely COF would raise awareness of specific institutional problems and reforms required, in turn making it easier to hold their elected officials to account.

        You seem to have concerns about links with trade unions from your previous comments. I think until the COF actually takes place and we can see how it is run and how the agenda is set you may be a bit premature with the cynicism. Surely you should at least give it a chance.

        How exactly do you expect people to start confronting elected officials “directly en masse”? Should we sit around and wait for it to happen or get involved in initiatives such as COF which encourage participation in political life, or perhaps you envisage it happening in some alternative manner?

        @Rodge Arbuckle
        Possibly something lost in translation there, I think COF has the potential to have a positive impact especially if a wide spectrum of views are represented as you allude to.

  9. Lets say two issues come to the fore at Claiming our Future event and they decide to campaign on these isues
    a.the tyranny of the Cabinet’s hold on power is identified as one item which needs to be challenged
    b. the Constitutional Convention is a dud
    Will COF’s left-social-society agenda prevent support on these two issues?
    Surely the challenge facing us is that all those who see the need for reform forget their differences and join forces to campaign for an agreed reform agenda.

    I don’t see how any group can operate without funding and whether it is the ICTU or Atlantic Philantropies doing the funding does that really matter?

  10. @Paul
    That’s stretching it to speculate about COF’s placing their conference a week before the Referendum!
    This conference has been publicised on their site before the referendum was even decided on.
    Your comment “God forbid those interested in political reform in this country get together to discuss the matter.” underestimates the possibilities of polar opposites colliding in debate. Bring it on – in frank discussion between opposing views there may be enlightenement

    • @Rodge Arbuckle,

      Fair enough on the pre-referendum announcement scheduling of the conference, but, given the political complexion of many of the participants I can’t see how it won’t be hijacked as a disingenuous ‘No’ campaign rally.

      When it comes to campaigning on political reform one has to check in one’s political and policy preferences at the door. I have strong policy preferences – and, yes, I occasionally reveal some of them, but principally to highlight some existing dysfunction – but on this blog I endeavour to avoid advancing them and to focus on democratic institutions and procedures.

      The objective must be to ensure that any public policy proposals, whether from government or any other party or grouping, get a thorough airing and scrutiny and that, when finally decided, properly reflect the settled will of the people – and even if a minority remain discontented that they are prepared to accept and respect the decision.

      What worries me a little is the historical evidence of some preference for a benign dictatorship or a benevolent despot. Many people seem to be prepared to accept An Taoiseach’s pre-eminence and a cabinet tyranny once they are comfortable they can end it at the next general election – and elect another taoiseach and cabinet to operate in the same mode. Perhaps, as is often noted in Britain, a majority of people prefer the ‘smack of firm government’. A government that is purposeful and determined, even if wrong-headed, may be preferred to procedures that might restrain it – since they could lead to ‘gridlock’.

      This may be the factor most strongly resistant to meaningful political reform.

  11. This has become a bit of bashing-fest.
    It must not be overlooked that well-intentioned people from far and near will attend the COF event. These are citizens who want to examine new possibilities for running our State. As such their initative is to be commended whatever one thinks of their clearly declared social-democratic left alignment.
    Why must groups looking for change become political parties? Surely there is a role for groups outside the political party system?
    I don’t agree that the PFG is all that is on offer. The PFG is not on offer but is clearly on hold.
    Also I see no hidden agenda in the COF initiative.
    The Cabinet’s bullying scaremongering tactics re the fiscal Treaty should be of more concern to anyone who wants to change the way we do politics. Those who intend voting Yes should be worried – the people did not like the hamfisted run-up to the Oireachtas Inquiries referendum.
    If COF come up with a coherent list of policies for reform of the Irish democratic system then the real test will be the campaign which follows to forward their reform agenda among voters.

    • @Manus Magee,

      Our Minister for ‘Reform’ – roflol – has set out the extent of the Government’s ambitions. No surprises there, when the main part of the problem is proposing the solution. I still think those advancing political refrom who are ostensibly outside the formal political process should check in their political and policy preferences at the door. Seeking to advance them simultaneously with a demand for ‘political reform’ simply repels those who favour political reform but don’t share these fantasies. In addition, it might even encourage opposition to genuine reform if it were seen to be a backdoor to advance these fantasies.

      And on the referendum, I think the dishonesty and disingenuousness on both sides is simply disgusting and repulsive. The Fiscal Compact is only the first significant step in a process to resolve the Euro crisis. It merely formalises much of what is in place already. It is a price all 25 member-states have to pay because governing politicans (and their predecessors) in some of the creditor countries (in partcular, Germany) misled their voters and this is what is required before they will consider consenting to the actions and reforms required. Unlike Ireland, voters in some countries in the EU get very cross about their governing politcians deliberately misleading them.

      The Irish people have to decide whether to join with the creditor nations and participate in the development of the EU in a global context that they (and most other member-states) are seeking to craft or to withdraw closer to the semi-detached position that Britain is pursuing.

      The Government and Official Ireland are trying to sell a lousy prospectus. They refuse to level with voters and the policies they are currently pursuing, in the absence of significant structural reforms, will continue to grind down the domestic economy. The opportunity to implement these structural reforms has gone, because the Government has caved in to the various sectional interests affected over the last year.

      What is interesting though is that not a few people are vowing to vote ‘no’ so that these reforms – and even more severe ones – back on to the policy agenda. This, of course, is precisely the opposite of the intent of most of those planning to vote ‘no’.

      This vote will tell us a huge amount about modern Ireland.

    • Manus Magee:

      Why must groups looking for change become political parties?

      It is because this is the only (democratic) method open to us by which power can be obtained. Without power (political or otherwise), change cannot be implemented, no matter how many well-meaning meetings of COF take place.

      Does one imagine Fine Gael and Labour are waiting on tenderhooks for the latest well-intentioned missive from COF?
      Of course not.

      They can safely ignore COF, and they can safely ignore COF precisely because COF has no power and, being an academic thinktank, is unlikely to ever obtain any. I mean, Fine Gael and Labour are busily ignoring or watering down their very own “reform” agendas, trumped up before the last election…why would they pay any attention to new ideas from COF?

      So, what then is the purpose of COF? To merely come up with academic reform ideas? To what end? So that they can then be left to gather dust by those who wield actual power (at present, Fine Gael and Labour)? COF never answers this. There is never an answer as to what would constitute “victory” for COF.

  12. @ Seabhac
    Political parties have proved themselves incapable of substantive reforms to our system. Regardless of which parties are in power no Cabinet is going to reduce the exclusive hold on power given to it in the 1937 Constitution.
    If we follow your logic then all pressure groups are pointless and should disband and join political parties.
    There is a role for groups. However I think only a coalition of pressure groups interested in democratic reform will succeed in exerting influence on voters so that the political parties have to take their reform agenda seriously and adopt aspects in the same way as Green issues were adopted by all parties.
    I agree. The follow-on campaign to influence voters regarding their chosen reform agenda will be the litmus test of whether COF are little more than a think-thank.

    The exit poll of Feb 2011 election showed reform is more of an issue than is generally portrayed in the media. Given the likely absence of a concerted national campaign for democratic reform by a pressure group – a new social democratic party formed soon and led by a capable politician like Stephen Donnelly which stridently advocated reforms to our Westminster system and applied consistent pressure in opposition over the next four years could well muster support and easily steal seats from Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil at the next General election. As it stands the existing independent TDs will fade away because voters were looking for any port in a storm bar Fianna Fáil and next time round will be looking for an alternative to the early 20th century parties. The last thing we need is another re-run of the Fintan O’Toole David Mac Williams et al fiasco.

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