Ask not what your country can do for you…

Spoiled vote ireland

There has been a lot of talk recently about the decline in traditional civic values amongst the Irish people, evidenced by low turnouts for referenda and absenteeism from jury duty.

While I think there may be some truth to this, the government should also bear some responsibility for doing nothing to promote civic pride and a sense of duty.

By and large, our political landscape is dominated by petty squabbling, parochialism and corruption. It has been a long time since we had a leader of conviction who espoused a strong and compelling vision for Ireland.

Whatever the detractors say about the late Charles Haughey, he was a charismatic leader who wasn’t afraid to think big. His legacy included projects on a grand scale such as the regeneration of Temple Bar, the IFSC, IMMA and tax breaks for artists. Projects that instilled a sense of pride in civil society (that he was also a total gangster is immaterial to this argument!).

And as for referenda, I would argue that the recent low turnouts have been a factor of the absolutely fatuous nature of the questions put to the electorate.

While it is apparent to all that there are fundamental challenges facing this country and that our political system and constitution are both in need of drastic reform, recent referenda have been insulting to our collective intelligence.

The Nice treaty was rejected and brought back to the people until the government got the answer they wanted, the abortion referendum was structured in such a way that there was no good option, only the lesser of two evils, the Children’s referendum was a total waste of time, since our constitution already enshrined the protection of children, and this week’s Seanad debacle doesn’t address the real issue which is the reform of the Oireachtas in its entirety.

It’s worth noting that the cost of running a referendum is somewhere in the region of €20m. In a climate where the government is desperately looking at ways to cut costs, that’s quite a sum (and ironically the amount the government is telling us we’ll save by abolishing the Upper House!).

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3 Responses to Ask not what your country can do for you…

  1. Couldn’t agree more. The most irritating thing about this Senate referendum is how we are being offered the choice of leave the Senate exactly as it is (slightly, or more than slightly useless) or abolish it entirely, (with all the possible implications of democratic deficit and lack of scutiny) But of course, not the option most people might prefer, ie: improve, develop and reform the Senate.
    True: the Senate is pretty crap most of the time, but it did give a vital platform to people like David Norris in the 1990s, to promote vital reform, and at least the few senators nominated by the universities, (like Norris) have traditionally been progressive and ahead of their time, (which is more than you can say for most TDs). We are going to loose that now, plus any real scrutiny, so the whole debate is so dumb, and really depressing.

    I’m so narked about it, I’m not voting, also because neither choice remotely reflects what I’d like to see. If they want to read “apathy” into that, let them.
    Yours, in high dudgeon – Arran.

    • rjmackin says:

      100%. A no vote could be taken as an endorsement of the status quo which is obviously not desirable. Reform should have been an option. It’s interesting that the government appear afraid of that option. A functional Seanad, manned by the likes of Norris and feargal Quinn might actually have posed a real threat to their cosy consensus. No good options here but I’m voting no out of sheer obduracy!

      • Yes, you’re right, I should do that too, it would at least send them back to the drawing board. Voting Yes to Total abolition dumb. This measure seems like retarded, cheap, populist opportunism to me, and potentially dangerous too.

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