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Health Committee and Democratic Renewal

6.10.2005

The issue of the Health Committee report has been particularly vexing me, I understand the dynamics of party politics particularly for a group that are trying to begin creating momentum in the run up to an election, but the carry on of our democracy is beginning to come aground in farce and counter-farce. The whole debacle yesterday at the press conference was infantile and no matter which side of the fence you were on, your mind would have been already made up. Going after Martin was always going to blind the ambition of reaching the truth and figuring out some sort of consensus based solution. The glorified ideal of a decent committee structure is a bi-partisan or unpartisan forum for achieving cross-party solutions and making government account for its key actions. This culture never took root in the immediate years following 1937 and the result has been a Hobbesian attempt by government to rule as an almighty sovereign controlling all aspects of our state.
There have been calls for some time to give real teeth to the all-party committee on the constitution and allow it to seek a genuine process of evolution for a democracy which was born in the 19th century and machinery which is nearly seventy years old. Things have changes across the state and our society is a very different place, however we are still ruled according to the norm of the immediate post war period. Any genuine supporter of Irish democracy can only examine and conclude that there is a broad scope for a progressive evolution of our state. We need to remodel our democracy to cope with the pace of the 21st century. I am not advocating an abolition of human rights in the face of ‘terrorism’ however we must find a way of renewing the ideals set out in Bunreacht na hÉireann and shaping these in a format that takes account of nearly seventy years of progress in democratic theory. There are better options available to achieve the goal of a good and fair society. These options can be introduced piecemeal or the long term strategic view can be taken and the constitution overhauled or at least re-examined every twenty five years or so.
This process seems to me to be necessary right now as a genuine element of hubris and arrogance has swept the political system since the dawn of the Celtic Tiger and the Dusk of the IRA. These factors have had a fundamental impact on the shape of Irish society yet Irish democracy has failed to move with the times. Many of us may say that such an idea as renewing democracy throughout its life is unnecessary and wide open to failure, this is true but the alternative is a failure of a creaky and old system that never faced the realities of a new world and new demands for our lives. Any state that cherishes democracy should be encouraged to hold reviews of its system.
A forum such as this would allow for a genuine social consensus to emerge, forging a New Ireland and carving a system in the image of its people. There is no one size fits all democracy and it is best applied in a subjective and best fit fashion. There comes a point in the history of any institution when it must either re-examine and adjust or continue on in hubris and ultimately fail. There is no sensible option for us but to begin the process of redrawing our system to account for our needs. People can voice their expectations of government; those who would govern can voice the hard truths about the scarcity of resources and the need for change in our lifestyles. We can have and open and frank debate about the way our country needs to go. Our media can never facilitate such a notion being biased and wholly owned by the few.
This might seem hyperbolic and over the top, but what I wish to do is flag the early warning signs that our system is moving toward a point of no return. Reengaging with our society and promoting honesty, transparency and ownership is something that doesn’t have to be done in bloodshed. We have always been a nation of sensible people, now is the time to forge ahead in a new direction and open up a new world of democracy.
The 19th century model is beginning to be eroded by corporate power and global capital; we can full re-establish the ownership of the state by the people and the responsibility of society to the world around us only through new and reform based politics, pursued away from government. Democratic renewal is not some high minded ideal but a necessity for the ongoing life of our society and our culture.
Red Rover

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