Thursday 21 February 2019

Breaking the old rules in a quest for new politics

Clash: Eamon and Phil. Photo: Collins
Clash: Eamon and Phil. Photo: Collins

* The response of Labour spokespersons to the unorthodox bombshell from Phil Prendergast has not been 'pathetic' but 'bathetic' – ie, bordering on farce.

Unquestionably, Ms Prendergast has broken a key clause in the 'omerta' or 'bushido' of Irish political parties. It goes back to the days in the 1920s, when deviating from party discipline could, quite literally, be a matter of life and death.

However, we live in very different times. We are still in a life-and-death battle for the survival of this nation – for whatever flexibility in determining our way of life is possible in the 21st Century.

Curiously, despite innumerable lectures from ministers as to how little we, the peasantry and the proletariat, understand the 'gravity' of the situation, this Government, its Taoiseach and Tanaiste, have never tried seriously to spell it out and to include us – as mature adults – completely in the struggle.

Grotesquely, the only Taoiseach ever to attempt that was CJ Haughey! Of all people! Even my political soul-guide, Garret FitzGerald, was too busy after he got his seal of office in 1982 to make that politically crucial gesture of inclusion.

If, in the distant past, Irish voters lost the run of themselves and voted emotionally rather than rationally, we have learnt a great deal very rapidly.

But too many of our 20th-Century vintage politicians have learnt nothing.

The polls (and one must always study several polls and the 'trend' rather than once-off peaks and troughs) indicate not only that Labour support has slid inexorably towards single figures but that support or tolerance for all three-and-a-third 'main' parties could be only barely 51pc.

There is profound disillusion and lack of confidence in our politics. One factor in this is that those parties have not treated us as adults with whom the facts must be shared fully.

The wonderful banquet at Windsor Castle reminded me of nothing so much as Versailles before the 1789 revolution. Of the last paragraph in George Orwell's 'Animal Farm', in which the animals, (meaning 'the people'), look through the triple-glazed windows and cannot tell the difference between their old and new masters.

Phil Prendergast and Nessa Childers have broken the old canonical rules but they have pointed the way to a possible new politics – and thus deserve our votes.

Maurice O'Connell, Tralee, Co Kerry

 

THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

* I'd like to ask a question about Paddy O'Brien's God-slamming letter (April 30).

Mr O'Brien writes: "Of all the millions of species of life that exist on Earth, man in his present form is a very recent arrival and we represent less than 10pc of all life on this planet; insects represent about 80pc of life here.

"Man has everything in common with animals – he reproduces in the same manner; he must eat, drink and breathe to stay alive; he has the same internal organs as an animal. All life is related, and all living things on Earth, from microbes to elephants and everything in between, will die, decompose and turn to dust."

Does Paddy's flanking this simple, widely acknowledged fact with the first line of 'The Little Book of Atheist Platitudes', that "Man invented God", prove that God does not exist?

Or, rather, does it point to some intrinsic order and consistency in nature that is entirely, fundamentally at odds with the commonly held atheist affirmation that the universe, our lives, and everything in them are entirely random, chance events, devoid of meaning and substance?

It seems to me that, far from disproving the existence of something bigger than himself running the show, Mr O'Brien just worked out for himself Aquinas' ex contingentia proof of the existence of a deity: that of the ordered line through nature which we call God.

Killian Foley-Walsh, Kilkenny City

 

KEEP THE LETTERS COMING

* The ongoing debate on God in your letters page, for which I thank you, and enjoy, reminds me of an incident in the life of Ballyshannon poet William Allingham.

Circa 1800s, a Ballyshannon newspaper was in danger of closing, and Allingham and a friend began a campaign of writing letters on controversial matters.

The response and counter-responses proved so interesting to readers that the newspaper survived.

Declan Foley, Adelaide, Australia

 

POLITICAL ARGUING

* With another full month of political promises/waffle/baby-kissing/ posing/backtracking on new taxes and false smiles before the public decides who gets to the new councils and who will board the Brussels gravy train, the fighting and arguing has hit new lows among the parties.

Usually it's the "know-alls" in each party tearing into the opposition. Now we have the spectacle of the party faithful arguing among themselves and gunning for their own leaders. In the words of S Jerzy Lec: "The only fool bigger than the person who knows it all, is the person who argues with the fool."

Can't argue with that.

Sean Kelly, Tramore, Waterford

 

RADICAL IDEA ON GENDER QUOTAS

* A simple if seemingly radical change to our electoral system would ensure equal male/female representation in the Dail.

If constituency boundaries were redrawn and an even number of seats allocated to each constituency, then half of the seats in each constituency could be designated 'Male' and half 'Female'.

At election time, voters would complete two ballot papers – one for the male candidates and one for the female candidates. This would ensure equal representation in the Dail.

Fred Meaney, Dalkey, Co Dublin

 

YOU GET WHO YOU VOTE FOR

* In response to the letter (April 30) regarding nepotism in Irish politics, one would have to acknowledge the importance of the voters in electing TDs. It is fair to say that family ties play a part in Irish politics but Irish politics is not alone in that sphere.

Ireland is synonymous with family businesses being passed down generation to generation without question. People aren't handed seats in Dail Eireann, but merely given the platform to obtain one. It's the voter who decides and you get who you vote for.

Ronan Herlihy, Nenagh, Co Tipperary

 

BETTER USE OF TAXPAYERS' MONEY

* Eamon Delaney's article (Irish Independent, April 29), 'Elitist Aosdana corners market in art of living off the State', demands an urgent and reforming response from the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Aosdana is a society with no obligation towards public accountability or transparency. It has no public mandate, other than the distribution of tax-free stipends.

This year, €2.6m of taxpayers' money is being paid to 157 artists, comprising 60pc of Aosdana membership. Many are unknown to the public and many others are past their creative prime. Stipends are to 'honour' past accomplishments, not to stimulate new output.

Should the State also provide life-long tax-free stipends to reward the past glory of other pillars of society, from fields such as science, the humanities and social sciences?

Should Mr Deenihan be spending taxpayers' money and public debt more strategically?

Myles Duff6y, Glenageary, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

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