Tuesday 27 September 2016

Our political parties are still trapped in the past

Published 02/03/2016 | 02:30

Gerry Adams, Enda Kenny, Micheál Martin and Joan Burton before the last leaders’ debate ahead of the General Election on RTE’s Prime Time. Photo credit: Tony Maxwell/PA Wire
Gerry Adams, Enda Kenny, Micheál Martin and Joan Burton before the last leaders’ debate ahead of the General Election on RTE’s Prime Time. Photo credit: Tony Maxwell/PA Wire

I find it extraordinary that, in a relatively small country like ours, the irrelevant differences between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are on the way to being a stumbling block to the fulfilment of the wishes of the electorate.

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The antipathies that define their differences are more related to historical and tribal thinking than to any significant differences in policy or practice.

Sinn Féin seems to be relatively more sensitive to the importance of ministering to the poor and the marginalised; in this respect, providing the only credible alternative to the other parties.

However, the party needs new leadership to represent the more enlightened nationalism that is steadily emerging.

The idea that none of the parties is prepared to enter into a political arrangement with Sinn Féin has a ring of hypocrisy about it. Sinn Féin was the political wing of the IRA but this does not provide sufficient grounds for the persistent demonising of the party. Yet again we are allowing ourselves to be trapped in the past, creating a self-made inability to extract ourselves from it, wasting time and energy in ritual posturing.

This obsession with the past was exemplified for me recently while travelling with a nationalist friend in west Cork through the aptly named, precipitous ravine, the Pass of Keimaneigh (Céim an Fhia).

I drew my friend's attention to the sheer beauty of the place.

His response was that it would be a great place for an ambush.

Perhaps it could be said about Irish politicians, as Churchill said about the Americans, that they tend to do the right thing when all other possibilities have been exhausted.

Here's hoping!

Philip O'Neill

Oxford, England


Reform of local government

The votes have been counted and verified, the people have spoken, but we are not sure what they have said. The mainstream parties are at a loss to know why they can only get 50pc of the vote.

One reason is power, or a perceived lack of it, and the impression that the elites don't care and don't listen to ordinary people.

It has become a cliche to say Ireland is the most Stalinist country in the world when it comes to local government and administration.

So much power has been taken from local governments that at this stage they are hardly worth keeping.

This is not the case in other countries, where local governments have responsibilities for healthcare, education, policing, public utilities, social services, planning and housing, sport and so on.

The European Union has a principle called subsidiarity, where decisions should be taken at the lowest practical level of government.

In 2011, after 541 days of negotiations, Belgium solved its political crisis with more devolution to its regions. Actually, it was its sixth reform in 50 years; we haven't had one in a century.

So why not try it? Why not devolve powers to local communities?

It may be counter-intuitive but perhaps the best way to secure political power is to surrender some of it. The question is, are the elites listening?

Jason Fitzharris

Swords, Co Dublin


Europe's hold on Ireland

The media and the political establishment are struggling to make sense of what just happened, to form a narrative of what is actually going on, less we, the electorate, might actually have to take time and think about it for ourselves.

While the reasons for the results are no doubt complex and multi-faceted, one factor which should not be overlooked is how we manage the EU's involvement in our own country.

The present Taoiseach has been the most efficient and effective ruler that Germany has ever had on the island of Ireland.

The present Government failed to get any deal at all on debt, and with hindsight we now know the destructive role of the ECB in burning us, the Irish people, to save bondholders.

Successive governments have failed to manage the EU effectively on behalf of the Irish people - is there nobody left to do this? Is it time that we had a mature discussion on Europe's role in Ireland?

This an issue which the media do not seem too keen on giving any editorial space to, and we seem to be one of the only countries in Western Europe where nobody in public life is asking these types of questions.

It is a little less than ironic that in the centenary of the 1916 Rising we are no longer sovereign.

These words must make uncomfortable reading for whoever presides over the centenary celebrations. From the Proclamation of the Irish Republic :

"Relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory. We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right".

Neil McDonagh

Donabate, Co Dublin


Creighton's job search

Former TD Lucinda Creighton says that finding a new job is her priority.

Maybe Lucinda should check out the JobBridge scheme, which she was so in favour of when a member of Fine Gael.

Seamus McLoughlin

Keshcarrigan, Co Leitrim


On the road to change

Not all changed, changed somewhat: A beautiful tremor is born.

Joseph Mackey

Glasson, Athlone

Irish Independent

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