Is consensus politics choking the Irish system? Freelance journalist Feidhlim ó Broin makes the case
Much has been written recently about the steady rise of Fine Gael in the polls, about the nascent economic recovery and the construction of a new, progressive, modern Republic. Indeed, Ireland’s political parties illustrate this new order. Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Fein and the Labour Party agree on practically everything from European Policy, the need for a more liberal abortion regime, to crime and education policies.
This ‘consensus liberalism’ renders the upcoming election a meaningless, bland process. Essentially, people are voting for the same pig in different colour dresses. The voter is subjected to a collection of parties who agree on practically everything on everything and offer dull consensus politics.
Our politicians talk about nothing worth talking about. Important issues-not a peep out of them, nothing but silence. For example, we hear nothing from our political parties about the state of the education system in Ireland. All our political parties trot out the same old trite line about ‘our world class education system’.
The only problem is, we don’t have a world class education system. Ireland is crying out for politicians who champion excellence in education, broader roll-out of Latin and Greek studies in schools, removal of Irish as a mandatory subject, longer school days, increased focus on Maths and Science, and stand-up to those who say reform is ‘too difficult’. Put simply, our sub-standard education system need needs action and reform not more ‘world class education system’ bores.
Crime is another area where politicians specialise in spoofing. No concrete policies, no vision, nothing to offer but sound bites – ‘party x is fully committed to the war on crime’- is a reliable one. Why if you are committed to the war on crime, have you allocated no extra resources to the Gardai? Politicians need greater scrutiny. We should no longer let them away with bland statements. It is the citizen’s job to demand a higher standard of politics, more policy analysis and actual solutions to societal problems.
Why are no parties looking at the link between poor education standards, crime and unemployment? You don’t need to be Abraham Lincoln to understand the direct correlation between poor education and disposition to crime. Similarly, the link between undereducated people and unemployment is clear. Instead of engaging with the teaching profession to introduce reform and raise standards, our politicians bury their heads in the sand for fear of upsetting the all-powerful teaching unions.
No, our politicians have no interest in improving our failing education system. Why would they have, when they can declare war on the religious ethos of our schools? Never mind education standards, just make sure you take down the crucifix. Easy targets are a valuable commodity in the Dáil.
Foreign Policy is another area of broad political consensus. Where are the parties appalled by the erosion of sovereignty? Why the silence from so called Republican’s in Fianna Fáil and Sinn Fein about the undermining of the national parliament? The issue of Ireland’s relationship with Europe needs addressing but, sadly this requires original thought, which is not a strong point of Irish politicians. Instead, we get politicians who dismiss nationalism and patriotism as ‘outdated and insular’. What, however, was modern and inclusive about screwing the Irish tax payer to save the European project?
Far from being on the brink of recovery, Ireland is facing into a deeply uncertain future. We need politicians willing to question and think. A new generation of politicians who talk about the importance of Irish sovereignty, raising education standards and tackling crime has never been so badly needed. Without this, Ireland will become a small province in a Federal Europe, with a national parliament rubber stamping decisions already made in Brussels.