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So who runs this joint?


Over the last few days, the whole storm over PPARS has grabbed the imagination (whatever of it is left) of the chatterati and we have descended into a mutually reenforced conception of irish politics as run by loons and outsourced to "consultants" wherever they are crafty enough to seduce government ministers.
Some of the work by Gavin at Irishcorruption.com in tying the disparate strings together has been a massive aid to those seeking to cut through the (slightly forced methinks) hyperbole over the waste of E150 Million and then some on IT systems, consultants and other shiny toys which cause politicians in the west to salivate.
So i turned on Q&A this evening to find its brief foray into being mildly interesting has been done away with and tonight we reverted to type, most notably with Willy O Dea's 100,000th appearance on the show (well it feels like it). The Hulabaloo over consultants etc seems to again have missed the glaring point that was pointed to by Vincent Browne at the weekend in SBP. The PPARS system, the electronic voting, pretty much all that is wrong with Irish politics, seems to revert to a gripe that those we elect fritter away money like the Manneken Piss dispenses water. We elect politicians to a Dail where they are fated to serve in a capacity as governing party or opposition. There is little attempt to supercede the partisanship inherent in the Dail since patronage can be thrown to anyone lucky enought to get a seat. Barring the Liz O Donnell aberration earlier this week, the party line is rarely broken.
Basil Chubb in commentary on the Dail referred to it as "a puny parliament peopled by members who have a modest view of thier powers and a poor capacity to carry them out". Major problems in Irish politics have often stemmed from the ineptitude of our representatives and many voters are numb to the occurence of ineptitude in our leaders.
If this is the backgroung into which consultants walk, then it is no wonder Delloit and Touche enjoy such presence in the public sector. From a deteriorating view of responsibility and a dim notion of the electorate expects of power, we have muddled through years of economic growth only to deliver us to a society which is deeply atomised, badly planned and lacking any sense of respect for the work citizens have done in making Ireland what it is today.
Further to this has come the undermining of the Mandarin culture in the civil service, where liberally educated men and women sought to temper democracy and act as a bulwark to Mobocracy that many predicted would befall western liberal democracies. Much work in recent times suggests that the erosion of the prestige of high mandarins in favour of serious technical expertise has led to creeping mobocracy and presents a threat to democracy existent since the times of Aristotle.
So the present edition of government ineptitude can be seen as part of a longer legacy of mutually impotent governing classes, setting up NTR, the West Link, through badly planned estates and commuter towns to PPARS. The legacy is as rich as the litany is long.
So who now runs this place? Are we in hock to the Consultants, the planners, the spinners and the managers? I fear a nasty conflation of much of the above.
I have a long time ago called for a much stronger commitee system to reinvigorate the Dail and empower TDs to think for a change. Yet Browne disagrees this is sufficient, in his article he cites the clear need for a seperation of powers and the clear division of Executive from Legislative branches. Such reform is a monumental task in a mature democracy.
Yet he has a point. Surely even the consideration of a new system, the discussion of serious reform of our society to reflect our new views and new realities, would in itself breed the awareness of reflection.
As a whole the body politik lurches from one crisis to the next, one media event to the next rarely pausing to reflect on the present realities and the emergence of this reality through time. From such a beginning we can beging to run out country again.
For the moment all we have are a group who see their role as facilitating technical and professional management of society thorough all sorts of media. Empowering TDs should begin with the encouragement to freedom of will, thought and expression.
Modern democratic reform is never easy, yet i feel that it is clearly needed in our country where noone appears to be at the helm.

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  1. Anonymous copernicus | 1:30 a.m. |  

    I agree with the need to separate the Exec from the Legislature which I think boils down to the fact that the Chief Whip is not a constitutional actor.

    Social Partnership is the other really big issue for our democracy because while it has been entirely necessary in addressing the power of the unions, regulating wage demands and helping to create the conditions for growth, it utterly undermines Parliament and is fundamentally undemocratic.

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