I have a friend who’s an expert on Irish politics. I used to work with another guy who’s now getting paid a fortune to wax lyrical about the state of the economy. I can hold a decent conversation with both these people but I’m far from an expert in either of their fields.
Obviously, as a reporter, I have to keep up to a certain degree with the cut and thrust of the different political parties and the bigger national picture but I’m a strict observer.
Today, for one column only, I’m putting my observer hat on the shelf and I have my commentator’s pen at the ready. Yes, it’s about politics, but not as we currently know it, so don’t turn away just yet.
With Irish politics being thrown into the spotlight again in the wake of the Mahon tribunal, there’s more focus than ever on the system which sees the chosen ones elected to the Dail, so it’s fitting to use it as a bit of a case study.
Whether you’re an expert or just someone with a passing interest, it’s as obvious as a punch in the face that the system is totally flawed. That system, ultimately, is responsible for the Celtic Tiger and subsequently bringing the country to its knees.
Think about the process. Currently in the Dail earning somewhere in the region of 90,000 euro a year each, you have all manner of characters including a failed property developer, a turf cutting expert who went to jail for possession of Cannabis (before he gave it up to become a TD) and a string of others who are either there because of who their fathers are or the fact that they’re great at getting potholes fixed.
Now I’m all for getting potholes fixed, and having local representatives who are able to sort out broken streetlights and intervene when you have a problem with your passport, but are these really the same people who should be running the country.
In a word - no.
I’m with social commentator Fintan O’Toole when it comes to this one. Last year, he called for a dramatic rethink in terms of the government.
He suggested establishing a core panel of experts, at the very highest level, to pull the country out of the desperate situation it currently finds itself in.
It’s not exactly rocket science. If you’re running a business, you have the people who know most about making and keeping a profit in the top positions.
Why shouldn’t it be same when you’re running a country?
Yes, in order for democracy to work we need our government to be elected by us. I’m not suggesting we abandon the system totally, but when it comes to key decisions about our money, our hospitals and the country’s balance books. the wrong people have been left in charge for too long.
That’s because when it comes to our politics, we don’t think about the greater good. We think about what we can get done for ourselves be that potholes, cats eyes, or rushing through a passport application, and we’ll vote for whoever will do that fastest.
That doesn’t work if we want the country to start working. It just keeps small cliques in small areas happy with their lot.
And when it comes to small cliques and brown envelopes you only have to look at Bertie Ahern’s shenanigans to see where that always ends.
An independent panel of specialists would go some way towards finding a solution to the bigger questions but until something like that happens, we’re likely to keep getting the same old rubbish from the same old faces.
The only benefit is the material it gives to great comedians like David McSavage. Don’t miss his first class satire on the state of the nation on RTE2 on Monday’s at 10:30pm. You won’t regret it.