Saturday 22 October 2016

Transport Minister Ross is clearly not in the driving seat

Published 19/09/2016 | 00:00

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross TD. Photo: Gareth Chaney / Collins
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross TD. Photo: Gareth Chaney / Collins

When Shane Ross was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 2011, I was intrigued, as were many of the electorate, as to how the former senator would perform. His promotion of an Independent Alliance gave hope that there may indeed be a different way of conducting business in the Oireachtas - possibly even the concept of New Politics.

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However, since he has entered into a coalition government, Mr Ross and his colleagues have discovered there is more to governing than spouting off opinions about everything.

He had a Pádraig Flynn moment recently on the 'Late Late Show' by informing viewers that transport was a doddle compared with the difficulties encountered in sport. So a ticket allocation scandal in Brazil takes precedence over a bus strike in our capital? A huge loss of business by traders is less important than trying to sort out the problems of the Olympic Council of Ireland?

I disagree strongly, and find myself in agreement with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern who suggested that relationships with unions have to be taken seriously, with clear and open communication with the relevant minister contributing to bringing disputes such as the Dublin Bus situation to a conclusion.

If the minister is going to be blamed anyway, then why not get involved as an agent of change and facilitate a resolution? Whatever other shortcomings Mr Ahern may have had, he was always a shrewd negotiator, whether in his time as Minister for Labour dealing with unions or as Taoiseach in framing the Good Friday Agreement.

Perhaps Mr Ross should get off the fence and use his skills to bring this matter to a swift resolution in the interests of bus drivers, passengers and the economy before it escalates any further.

Mike Geraghty

Upper Newcastle, Galway

Parish pump politics is ages old

Recent arguments about Waterford hospital services were dismissed by some Dublin commentators as PPP (parish pump politics). The media consensus devoutly wished for an end to the practice in Irish political life.

Those commentators showed a lack of knowledge of a tradition that dates from Roman times.

The nice name for PPP is clientelism, which can be described as the exchange of goods and services for political support, often involving an implicit or explicit quid pro quo.

It also existed in early Irish law as céilesine, or the relationship between a lord (flaith) and a poorer client (céile). Either party could end the relationship, but penalties were exacted on the person who tried to escape from the uneven bargain (usually the client).

Clientelism can also take the form of distribution of jobs to political supporters, which is illegal in some countries but not in the United States.

As far as modern Ireland is concerned, it was instituted as a cornerstone of politics by the British statesman Lord Castlereagh in his destruction of Grattan's parliament in the late 1700s. He distributed £1,400,000 (€750m in today's money) to persuade members of Grattan's parliament to vote for the Act of Union in 1800.

The money talked.

In British and Irish elections from 1784 to 1831, clientelism was the norm in constituencies with a limited franchise. An example is Cork, which had a population of 450,000 and an electorate of only 3,000. Lord Shannon objected that for "a guinea a man, freeholders [voters] were being created from fellows as low as labourers in rags and lice". These were "set against gentlemen of character and property".

The Irish Parliamentary Party itself was kept in power by British clientelism as a means of holding less desirable political parties at bay. The practice was widespread across the entire British Empire and turned 'democratic' politics into a mere dispenser of private patronage.

So let's not blame Irish politicians for inventing PPP or clientelism. They just picked it up from the Romans, from early Irish law and, finally, from the British - the masters of the system.

Hugh Duffy

Cleggan, Co Galway

Power of the people

On Saturday, thousands upon thousands of the so-called sinister fringe of dissident, Isis, trouble-making, threatening, dole-scrounging, beer-swilling, cigarette-smoking, mobile phone-holding, tax-dodging, non-complying, law-breaking, thugs and scum (that is just a fraction of what we have been called) marched cordially, peacefully and proudly through the streets of Dublin, united against water charges (which we already pay )

I was proud to be a part of this movement once again. Contrary to what is often stated, I am a PAYE worker, contributing to society daily. The corruption and deception in this country will continue to keep me on my feet. The power of the people is greater than the people in power.

Catherine Dolan

Tralee, Co Kerry

Concorde still flying high

This month, contemporary music ensemble Concorde celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Any musical group to last that long deserves many accolades, and the founder and director of the ensemble, Jane O'Leary, merits great respect for what she has created.

Concorde has been a great champion of contemporary music in Ireland, regularly creating new music to bring to audiences (often for no admission fee).

Here's to the next 40 years.

Gavin Brennan

Clontarf, Dublin 3

Give us action, not speeches

Is a book of speeches what we need from our first citizen, President Michael D Higgins? Will high-minded speeches alone be of any great value? Change will not come about unless people alter their attitude to such an extent as to alter their behaviour.

President Higgins lives on a relatively opulent salary in a relatively opulent house with multiple staff to attend to his needs, all paid for by the citizens, yet he promotes an egalitarian republic and condemns the hardships that certain classes of people endured in the past.

We can do little now to ameliorate these past hardships. We have many people in hardship today and we can do something about it.

It is action, not high-minded speeches, that is needed. Such speeches without real attitudinal change that involves appropriate action only hinder any progression towards an egalitarian society. They just breed cynicism.

Some commentators speak of the high intellectualism of the president as though it was an obvious unquestionable truth. What exactly is high intellectualism? If it's just words alone, does that thinking lack true depth?

Joseph Mackey

Glasson, Athlone, Westmeath

Irish Independent

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