1916, 2006 and the role of the citizen

In 1916 volunteers of the Irish Citizens Army participated in the Easter rebellion. In 2006, Bertie Ahern, speaking at a 1916 rebellion exhibition launch, has highlighted the growing need for a new form of citizen action to deal with 21st century issues, the negative toll the growth in wealth and consumerism has taken upon the Republic’s social capital.

Ahern defines the problem as:
“Today, when the scarcest resource of all is time, this role of active participation is being devolved to fewer and fewer people. In the process, we all risk being impoverished, especially those who opt out and leave the responsibilities of citizenship to others.”

Ahern sees the need for:
“At the beginning of the 21st Century Ireland needs to reimagine a new culture of active citizenship to build a vibrant civic society,”

Harvard Professor, Robert Putnam, has been credited with impacting on Ahern’s thinking on this issue and Unionists have been listening to Putnam as well.

  • ‘Ireland needs to reimagine a new culture of active citizenship’ because otherwise we’ll get muppets like McDowell getting away with the wilful subversion of the the state by ignoring the rule of law, due process, separation of powers, and the presumption of innocence in order to put laudible active citizenry organisations out of business. Oh, and did I mention he’s the Minister for Justice?

    Anyone see the small piece in today’s IT about the winding down of the CPI (Frank Connolly, Columbia etc.)? No one seems to give a toss. Even journalists seem afraid to have a pop at the Minister now that he’s circling once more looking to get this press council in order, ostensibly to address the likes of the horrendous treatment of the passing of Liam Lawlor, but in truth to remove one of the last legs of our democracy. Seig Heil Michael. I’m emigrating.

  • Garibaldy

    Sounds a lot like this Putnam person is heavily influenced by Jurgen Habermas. As for Bertie (or Martin Mansergh more likely), this is nothing new. The same stuff was said in 1998 relative to the United Irishmen and their vision, and we can expect it to be trotted out again in 1913 with the centenary of the Dublin Lockout etc etc

  • It’s a take on Putnam, but not a replica. Putnam’s the ‘Bowling Alone’ guy, part of the Inchydoney agenda (remember the West Cork Love-In?)and the caring thing.

    Putnam’s argument was in the context of society / community, and the disintegration of the community context in America in particular, and in Western culture in general. The mates are out, the family are a necessary obligation, and the job is everything. ‘Civic society’, as opposed to community, tends to suggest a more administrative function, a collective tackling of the 21st century issues. It is about less fundamental things. While Putman’s problem is at the heart of both, his area of concern is the family/community, while Bertie’s appears to be the State.

    I know these two are linked, but there is a subtle distinction. Remember Cowan’s report on the state of the party (can’t find link, sorry) that said activists were fewer and older a little while back? Well, that’s the problem Bertie’s talking about, not just for Fianna Fail, of course, but for political participation generally.

  • páid

    Who are lionised in the media down south? Community workers, carers, youth club founders? Or rich, dodgy, tax exiles. I hope to see the day when Sir Anto, Denis O’Brien and the like are shunned in the streets, but I don’t hold my breath.
    My little part-solution is an honours scheme for those who help others. But one that was completely independent from govt. and party apparachiks. Can you see Bertie doing it? You don’t get to be on the state board for horticultural manual publishing without being a 55 year old party hack. So until Bertie does something about elevating social capitalists above the more regular greasy capitalists, he’s just waffling. Been waffling for years on this one, actually.

  • spartacus

    oh yes, that’s just what bernie wants: an active citizensip. like the rossport 5? like the 100,000 who marched against the war in iraq? like those asking awkward questions about shannon being used for extraordinary renditions? who have been harrassed, jailed, etc etc?

    load of ****s, just as it was when it came from blair’s mouth. both share a complet econtempt for anything in the way of active democracy. what they demand above all is a complacent citizenry too busy shopping and paying off mortgages to give a toss about their destruction of the world around us.

  • Snuff Box

    From bowlingalone.com : and their surprising facts:

    “joining one group cuts in half your odds of dying next year”

    Evidence based medicine indeed. I can keep on the booze andfags then

  • Spartacus, I think he’s talking about political activism so that Fianna Fail can have more volunteers come the election. I don’t know that he (or even Mansergh for that matter) actually understands this stuff. Not just that, but that’s certainly part of it.

    Anyone who read Mansergh in the Irish Times three weeks ago (Saturday, opinion page) would have been struck by his lack of understanding on the Shannon issue. He basically said that the Shannon issue was simply that assurances were sought and received from W, end of story. We couldn’t do anything further without threatening our economic success. Such an argument completely ignores most of the concerns people have; it is devoid of intellectual rigour; it is a waste of paper.

    So I don’t think MM is up to this stuff either.

  • circles

    For more on the need for active citizenship and the need for the participation in Ireland see “A New Ireland” from 2005.

    Its written by Gerry Adams – and he does it a lot more convincingly than Bertie.