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Nothing to fear about prospect of a socialist-led government


Political leaders Eamon Gilmore, Micheal Martin and Enda Kenny arrive ready to do battle on the TG4 debate at their studios in Connemara yesterday morning.
Pic Steve Humphreys
16th February 2011.

Political leaders Eamon Gilmore, Micheal Martin and Enda Kenny arrive ready to do battle on the TG4 debate at their studios in Connemara yesterday morning. Pic Steve Humphreys 16th February 2011.

Political leaders Eamon Gilmore, Micheal Martin and Enda Kenny arrive ready to do battle on the TG4 debate at their studios in Connemara yesterday morning. Pic Steve Humphreys 16th February 2011.

The decision by parties with a left-leaning ideology to form a loose alliance in the forthcoming election is to be welcomed.

For the first time since the foundation of the State, people will be given a clear choice with the distinct possibility of a socialist-led government. There is nothing to fear from this.

Several countries in Europe alternate between socialist governments and centre-right governments as a matter of routine. This shows political maturity and a willingness to look at alternatives.

At the core of all political ideology is the type of society one chooses to live in. It is now clear that the financial crash of 2008 had a disproportionate effect on the poor, the working poor and struggling middle class, not only in Ireland but all over Europe and in the US as well.

Most reasonable people find this to be grossly unfair. There was bound to be a fall-out, with many ordinary people feeling deeply cynical about politics, big business, the world of high finance and a legal system that seems incapable of dealing with white-collar crime and financial gross recklessness.

It's akin to the world of geology - when you have an earthquake you are going to get tremors, aftershocks and a shifting of the plates.

The realignment of Irish politics is long overdue. Fianna Fáil and Fianna Gael should amalgamate. It's time to end the pretence. They could re-brand themselves as the Christian Democrat party.

Joseph Kiely

Donegal Town

Neoliberalism is nothing new

Dan O'Brien (Irish Independent, October 9) claims that because there are no self-described neoliberals, it is not possible to engage with their ideas. But surely he would not deny the historical existence of self-described free-market radicals, like Milton Friedman and Gary Becker, or the historic influence of their ideas on government policymakers such as Paul Volker and Margaret Thatcher.

Neoliberalism, quite simply, is a theory that advocates applying the laws of the market to as many domains of human existence as possible, as intensely as possible. Neoliberals take up the ideas of early liberals, like Adam Smith and David Ricardo.

Those thinkers had faith in the virtue of market-based competition as a mechanism for optimising the distribution of goods and services. Moreover, they believed the experience of buying and selling in the marketplace was a moral corrective, producing over time a class of responsible and capable citizens, named 'entrepreneurs'.

Compared with government, the liberals argued, entrepreneurs are highly adaptable individuals, capable of anticipating and responding to changes in the marketplace. For this reason, it is really they who should lead our society. One doesn't need to read too many Irish papers to see how this idea has become commonplace in the nation's opinion pages.

The principle innovation of neoliberalism is to take this idea of the market as a moral force to an extreme. No longer content with a global marketplace merely for goods and services, some neoliberals place a premium on extreme flexibility of contracts, and advocate that even non-economic domains of human interaction be subjected to market principles. Hence, during the day, we may be employed on a zero-hours contract to work in a call centre.

And in the evening we might drive an Uber cab, or rent out our spare room on Airbnb.

Dan O'Brien argues that austerity policies have been implemented in the European Union because, as a multilateral organisation, its ambitions can never escape the grip of "national interests". But this is reductive, and ignores the way interests are themselves conditioned by ideas. Austerity is not an economic inevitability. It is a political choice, driven at least in part by the moral vision of neoliberalism.

Scholars of neoliberalism are not conspiracy theorists. They are students of an immensely powerful idea, one which is today radically reshaping the process of European integration.

Nicholas Kiersey

Associate Prof, Political Science, Ohio University

Pioneering Irish doctor

Prof Mary Daly draws much-needed attention to Dr Kathleen Lynn, 'the rebel commander who founded a hospital' (Irish Independent, 1916 Collection, October 29).

Dr Ada English (1875-1944) was a similar figure. Like Lynn, English was one of the first generation of medical graduates in Ireland (1903). English went on to become a pioneering Irish psychiatrist and, like Lynn, combined progressive, socially-minded medical practice with deep political involvement.

A close friend of Joseph McDonagh, Patrick Pearse, Arthur Griffith and Éamon de Valera, English joined the Irish Volunteers and Cumann na mBan, and, in 1916, reportedly tended to wounded rebels with Liam Mellows in Galway. In 1921, English spent several months in Galway jail for possessing nationalist literature. While in jail, she was elected to the second Dáil and later participated in the Civil War on the anti-Treaty side.

English also spent almost four decades working at Ballinasloe District Asylum, where she oversaw significant therapeutic innovations, including the development of occupational therapy, and campaigned tirelessly for improved conditions for the forgotten patients of Ireland's monolithic asylum system.

Although she was born in Cahersiveen and grew up in Mullingar, English chose to be buried in Ballinasloe, alongside her patients, in the shadow of the old asylum to which she devoted so much of her remarkable life.

Professor Brendan Kelly,

Department of Adult Psychiatry,

University College Dublin

Sick to the pit of my stomach

I have seldom listened to the Six One News and felt sick to the pit of my stomach, but this evening I felt just that. It seems too terrible that a man with 92 previous convictions could be free to drive through this country and try to abduct a young girl.

It is quiet shocking that the family of this poor girl have returned to US.

Name address with editor

Terrible price of drink driving

This heartbreaking victim impact statement from Gillian Treacy should be printed, together with photographs of the awful tragedy, in every licensed premises.

This might bring attention to the devastation drink driving causes to families. I hope in time the family will cope as best they can in the circumstances and all treatments for Gillian will be successful.

Peggy Quinn

Rathmolyon, Co. Meath

Irish Independent