As the troika continues to direct our economic policy and as political elites continue to grumble about an all-intrusive media it's time to ask what makes Irish democracy actually work?
The twin pillars of any democratic society are a free press and an independent judiciary. In turn, these pillars must keep a watchful eye on those citizens who put themselves forward for election to run our democracy.
It is the job of the judiciary to be independent of the politicians in administering the law. It is the job of the media to hold politicians to account. It is the job of politicians to govern and to oppose. But to do that successfully they did need a vigilant media to watch over them. That is the price of power in Ireland as it is anywhere else in the democratic world.
Politics behind closed doors doesn't work. We only need to look at the calamitous bank guarantee scheme to know that. As of now we still have no proper account of the events of that murky night.
The recent attack by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte on the media's coverage of politics is not his first incursion into what is hardly a new debate on the freedom of the press to comment on politics and governance.
His rather excitable claims that the media has an "all-pervasive negativity" and refuses to "give a damn" about the consequences of its reporting is rather odd and indeed worrying coming from the minister responsible for the oversight and regulation of print, broadcast and web-based media.
Just under a year ago in a Seanad discussion on media standards, Mr Rabbitte mused on the "anti-politics" political commentary in sections of the media. Claiming that the incessant promotion of cynical discourse about politics was a staple of life in the boom times as well as today, he was of the view that it was equally destructive of both politics and journalism. How he came to that conclusion is not quite clear. Where is the evidence?
The minister now says it is worthy of some thought of where the constant denigration of politics is going to bring us. And indeed it is. But what exactly does he mean by constant denigration? Are the media simply supposed to act as cheerleaders for politicians and political parties?
One of the great strengths of the Irish media is that this cheerleader disposition so prevalent in Britain doesn't really exist here. Coming from various traditions and indeed political viewpoints, the Sunday Independent and Irish Independent, the Irish Times, the Irish Examiner, the Irish Daily Mail and the Irish edition of the Sunday Times all offer opinion from across the political spectrum. The journal.ie does the same.
This is as it should be. Politics demands honesty. It demands that promises that are made in election time should be fulfilled. If they cannot be fulfilled because of a change in economic circumstances that is one thing, but to casually announce that promises are broken because "isn't that what you do during an election" as the minister rather blithely announced recently is another thing altogether.
The Labour Party isn't unique to this phenomenon. Both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are past masters at it. Who for instance remembers Fianna Fail's 2002 promise that all hospital waiting lists would be cleared within two years? There certainly was, however, a brazenness to the most remembered soundbite of the 2011 election: Labour's way or Frankfurt's way.
This is why politicians need to be held to account. Pat Rabbitte is right when he talks about no alternative to politics. But criticising governments and politicians is not in any way anti-politics. The classic case of politics in action was the electorate taking revenge on Fianna Fail in the election of 2011 for promises broken. That is not anti-politics. That is politics.
Complaints now from politicians about media coverage of such broken promises is nothing more than the politics of paranoia.
Just over two months ago the great bastion of democracy the United States went to the polls in a spectacular example of how democracy works.
More than 129 million people voted, many of them queuing up for hours to cast their ballot. On election night people were still standing in line to vote in Florida when President Barack Obama gave his victory speech.
And has there ever been a president as viscerally attacked in the media as Barack Obama? Well maybe George W Bush, but the picture remains the same. Equally, was there ever a challenger for the presidency subject to as much vilification as Mitt Romney? Well maybe John Kerry.
The stunning portrayal of Abraham Lincoln by Daniel Day-Lewis in the film Lincoln shows a president haunted by war. Lincoln was also haunted by press attacks on him and in fact was no stranger to dishing out the dirt on his own political rivals.
A 'grotesque baboon', a 'third-rate country lawyer who once split rails and now splits the union', a 'dictator', an 'ape', and a 'buffoon' were all epithets hurled at Lincoln by the press of the day.
His response? Get on with the job. Lincoln did censor the press during the American Civil War. His administration shut down some newspapers and arbitrarily arrested some editors. But this was for explicit seditious behaviour. Attacks on Lincoln's politics were taken by him as part of the normal cut and thrust of political life.
Having recently spent six months on a Fulbright fellowship lecturing and researching on politics in the United States, I can confirm that politics there remains the same as in Lincoln's time. Those who enter public life remain fair game for a vigilant media. Politics was ever thus. And it should remain so.
Crude, personalised internet attacks have no place in political discourse. But they should be dismissed by politicians for what they are. There really is no point in complaining about internet cowards on keyboards. They are best ignored.
Those politicians who sit on the Oireachtas Committee on Communications would do well to remember that there are many ways to avoid such commentary when they call representatives of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to appear before them. There should, however, be no way of avoiding robust critical commentary in the free press. That is the lifeblood of any democracy.
Pat Rabbitte should go to see Lincoln and he should take a leaf out of the great emancipator's book. Persuade a crucial arm of a democracy that you are doing your job and doing it honestly. If you can do that you can persuade the electorate. It worked for Lincoln. Who knows it might even work for the Labour Party.
Gary Murphy is associate professor of politics and head of the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University.