Editorial: Voters deserve an alternative
IN Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons, the worldly saint Thomas More warns a young fanatic heart who has just declared that he would cut down any law to root out the Devil: "When the last law was down and the Devil turned around on you, where would you hide ... the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast... and if you cut them down, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?''
More's warning about the dangers of an iconoclastic rage are as applicable to Ireland today as it was in 16th century England. Today's Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll reveals a people who are in such a fury with the institutions of the State that they are poised to cut down all institutions and political parties to secure a hoped-for sense of justice. Faith in the church, the political process, banks, the HSE and all regulators having previously collapsed, on the evidence of today's poll it has also been seriously eroded in the Department of Justice and An Garda Siochana. This accelerating disbelief in anything our politicians say means, despite increasingly anxious claims to the contrary by the Coalition, that the vast majority of voters believe the Government's new water charges will not be fair. Meanwhile, in a further declaration of no confidence in conventional politicians, two years after the defeat of the Dail inquiries referendum, the voters want to arm Dail committees with a raft of new powers.
Intriguingly, amid all this fury, the only political party that appears to have managed to fill their sails with the angry winds of change is Sinn Fein. However, as Mr Adams and Sinn Fein cleverly take advantage of the wasteland that Irish politics and governance has been reduced to, it is time our voters considered the virtues of the promises being whispered by these political Mephistopheles. The ancient Greeks were the first to recognise that the quality of public democracy was defined by its capacity to impose appropriate levels of atonement from those who sinned against the gods. Despite today's polls, Sinn Fein's success is still mottled by the original sin of Jean McConville. In healthy democracies, sin always extracts a price. To date, rather like Fianna Fail, which thrived after the Haughey era, the only response Sinn Fein has offered when challenged about its appalling past is a vast sense of entitlement and little in the way of achievement to back it up.