Brexit serves to remind us how inherited loyalty drives the vote
Published 13/07/2016 | 02:30
The disarray created by Brexit has intensified the lingering disquiet in Britain about the way the European project has progressed. We have failed to face the difficulty involved in extending our understanding of governance to the European sphere. We have been seduced by the myth that, unlike Europe, we are governed by the exercise of the voice of the electorate and not by a bureaucratic elite.
Ireland mirrors the political practices of Britain, where voting is mainly driven by inherited loyalties, whilst Britain's use of the 'first past the post' system provides its own distinctive anomalies.
The notion that we can convert individual preferences into collective choices by exercising our vote does not sit easily with the realities of political life.
The myth that the electorate is in charge and that the results of elections or referenda express the will of the people do not withstand critical scrutiny.
The fatal flaw lies in the fact that the driving force of political discourse is intended to disengage us from our capacity to think beyond the demands of self-interest.
The protagonists in the war of words leading up to the British referendum on Europe traded in half-truths and deliberately manufactured ambiguity. Spin doctors worked overtime to help key politicians perfect the art of persuasion. The concept of Realpolitik, the practise of politics independent of religious, moral or ethical considerations, has dominated British and Irish political life for years.
The fruits of this approach to politics and power have been excellently chronicled by Martina Devlin and David Murphy in 'Banksters', revealing how a privileged 'golden circle' had gambled and lost the deposits and pensions of the Irish people under the noses of our politicians, who, themselves, seemed bewitched by the imperatives of money and power.
Women and family values
The fairness of equating one's ability to serve as an effective prime minister to their also being a parent has sparked a wave of attention.
Whilst the comments by Andrea Leadsom undoubtedly generated controversy, they arguably did not bring about debate.
It is the very difference between controversy and debate that underpins the persisting social inequalities for women.
'Views Not Shoes', run by the Fawcett Society, is one example of a campaign that seeks to address the pervasive ways in which women continue to be shoehorned into certain personas.
It highlights how the asking of loaded questions regularly feeds into the primary characterisation of women as caregivers, not to mention an even less satisfactory objectification based on clothing.
The tendency to ask women questions that relate to the circumstances which surround their roles as political actors rather than ones which directly address their political opinions undermines their legitimacy.
The link between the asking of such loaded questions and the exigency for campaigns such as 'Equal Pay for Equal Work' is painfully clear.
The turn of events in the quest for Tory leadership is not a lesson in ignoring family values; it is one in how to appropriately weigh credentials. Time will tell through our everyday, subconscious question asking and placing of women whether we have in fact learned this lesson.
Athlone, Co Westmeath
Breaking free from political past
A Leavy (Irish Independent, Letters, July 11 2016) questions, perhaps quite rightly, the call for Micheál Martin, as a member of a previously failed government, to replace Enda Kenny. The point is well made but it falls well short of considering how we can break away from failure by successive governments.
Mr Martin is pretty much indistinguishable from Mr Kenny; as is Fianna Fáil from Fine Gael.
We need to move out of our political comfort zone and look to those who are outside the traditional political tribes to give them the confidence of their convictions.
Forget the Labour Party, or the politically naïve Greens.
We will be the victims of our past, the victims of our continued failures, until we have the wisdom and the strength to find a new path for the future. What that will be is in our hands.
Each one of us must engage in our destiny and together we will find the answer.
We must become engaged in politics and the life of the country, especially our young.
The alternative will be a continuation of a disastrously failed and corrupt past.
Mount Merrion, Dublin
Crisis? What crisis?
The word 'crisis' is ubiquitous in the media. The media constantly refers to the increase in homelessness and the shortage of housing as a crisis. I refer to these events as situations, or problems. Calling them crises is sensational and inflammatory, in other words it's unhelpful.
A crisis, by definition, has no solution. According to Leilani Farha, special rapporteur for the UN on adequate housing, "Homelessness occurs when housing is treated as a commodity rather than as a human right". Leilani encourages all European states to commit to eliminating homelessness by 2030. Right now, that doesn't look likely or even possible - not until the housing shortage is addressed.
Homelessness has not been explicitly recognised as a human rights violation by the Irish court, so the Government doesn't have to do anything about it. There is no right to housing in Irish law. No matter how high rents and property prices become, the Government doesn't have to do anything about it. Democracy, etc, etc.
Celebrating unity not division
In response to the letter by Fr Sean McManus (Irish Independent, June 12), why not celebrate the Duke of Wellington, rather than the victory of William of Orange over James II, and the Battle of Waterloo, rather than July 12?
Waterloo was won by 10,000 Irish under an Irish Field Marshal from Dublin and Co Meath and, when Lord Uxbridge was wounded, another Irishman, General Sir John Ormsby Vandeleur from Queen's County/Laois, took command of the British cavalry.
I sometimes wonder why we must commemorate the things that divide us rather than those that unite us. Especially given the fame of Irish leadership and valour close to the Belgian capital, seat of the EU.
Dr Gerald Morgan
Trinity College Dublin