Radical reform in the Republic is neither imminent nor necessary: try voting

Dipping from time to time into the Irish Times’ Renewing the Republic debate, summed up in the paper today. I’m struck by the sobriety of the whole exercise. The sign of a mature democracy is a torpid democracy, I’m afraid. Previous generations would have roused to rebellion. Thomas Davis, Michael Davitt, Jim Larkin and James Connolly, where are you now? There’s been a marked absence of the bankers’ equivalent of maiming a landlord’s cattle in Elaine Byrne’s upsum of the series today. What was new about the crisis was not recession as such but the suddenness of the collapse despite warnings, boosted by the tsuami effect of globalisation, first the surge, then the withdrawal. British observers should note that a written constitution and PR voting are not the be all and end all. Irish institutions are well developed already. State laws and regulations themselves are less at fault than their observance. The ancient traditions of the gombeen and agin the government linger on. Croneyism is a two edged sword; it helped develop valuable social partnerships as well as the unchecked drift to disaster during the huge speculative bubble. Talk of direct democracy is unlikely to produce quick results. More modest reforms as similarly mooted in Britain, like better financial regulation and a cap on openly declared political donations are essentials. Fianna Fail should no longer be allowed to pose as a superior “movement,” somehow superior to a mere party and acting like a state within the State (and sometimes above it ). It will be up to the voters to exercise their right to “throw the scoundrels out,” regardless of Brian Lenihan’s steadying of the ship. A change of government would be a breath of fresh air. Fine Gael and Labour in particular should take care to become worthier of the task than they are at present. Beware of too much consensus; it grows wool to pull over peoples’ eyes. Elaine Byrne extr

There will be no apologies or statements of regret from the political, financial or regulatory authorities. As Seán FitzPatrick said on RTÉ radio days after the September 2008 Government guarantee: “It would be very easy for me to say sorry, but the cause of our problem was global so I couldn’t say sorry with any degree of sincerity and decency but I do say thank you [to the Irish taxpayer].”
Patrick Neary, the financial regulator, was rewarded with an early retirement golden handshake of €630,000. Irish Nationwide’s Michael Fingleton retired with a €27 million pension fund and a €1 million bonus.
Seán FitzPatrick enjoys a large pension and got a €400,000 golden handshake. Former Anglo chief executive David Drumm went to Cape Cod with a €659,000 bonus. Anglo doesn’t expect €109 million of some €155 million owed by former directors to be repaid.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London