Saturday 29 April 2017

A tale of how 
we are ruled

Owen Keegan, Dublin City Council chief executive, has been talking about the Garth Brooks concerts fiasco
Owen Keegan, Dublin City Council chief executive, has been talking about the Garth Brooks concerts fiasco
Editorial

Editorial

The moral philosopher Jeremy Bentham's belief that the central objective of all public policy should be to achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number of a state's citizens is not a bad rule.

Sadly, it is followed more rarely in Irish public life than you might think, for despite all the lectures on populism, Ireland is mostly ruled by coercive politicians and fiat-loving bureaucrats. It might appear to represent a long journey from Bentham to Brooks and the Garth Brooks pantomime might appear to be a flimsy template to define how Ireland is governed. But, the sorry saga which gripped a nation is far more relevant than mere fripperies like cabinet reshuffles. This is not simply because our governing structure, when faced with an issue which would facilitate the happiness of hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens, collapsed in a heap. Ironically, it was Mr Brooks who actually cut to the heart of the issue when, after our bureaucrats had applied the letter of the law to its inevitable dismal conclusion, he asked if it might be possible to now get the man in charge or the real "powers that be" to sort the mess out.

We, of course, knew all too well that Mr Brooks was being pathetically optimistic. Be it within local government, the HSE or national politics, Irish politicians have for decades enthusiastically collaborated with the destruction of their powers via the great rise of quangos and bureaucrats. This has not been accidental either. Instead our politicians have facilitated their own emasculation on the self-interested principle that, if they are not the man in charge they can be held responsible for nothing. Choosing the easy life is, alas, not without its perils. Had Dublin a Boris or a Blair or a Bloomberg, they would undoubtedly have possessed the chutzpah to resolve this issue. But, Irish governance has made it impossible for such politicians to survive. Instead we must suffer the tepid domination of unaccountable bureaucrats who are paid hundreds of thousands a year to obsess over bicycle lanes. And whilst Mr Kenny did indulge in some belated insipid shaping, not even Country and Western stars could take that seriously.

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