Lobbyists don’t go to constituency clinics
Posted on March 14, 2010 at 03:56 PM
I found the article published in the Irish Times yesterday by Professor Declan Kiberd to be part of a worrying trend in commentary about politics in our media recently. The Irish Times Article is part of a series of articles the Irish Times has said it will publish in over the next few weeks as part of a series ‘Renewing the Republic’. Readers of the article on line can make comments and I did yesterday and made some points that I will also make here. Professor Kiberd to a large degree blames the political system for our problems. He even blames the political system for the decision by the Government not to adopt ICTU’s 10 point plan. But it was not the political system that rejected the option of ICTU’s 10 point plan. The Government rejected it. It was a choice made by the Government that Labour might not have made, for example. It is very convenient for the Government and the IBECs and the CIF etc. to blame the political system for what are in fact choices of the parties in Government. Blaming the political system for particular political choices is to buy into some idea that there is no political differences. Contrary to the gist of Professor Kiberd’s article there are alternatives being put forward by the opposition to the Government's approach and thanks to our political system, the voters will have a chance to vote for or against those alternatives at the next election.
Professor Kiberd then goes on to attack what our TDs do. He doesn’t elaborate too much, apart from derogatory comments about “high-maintenance ward-heelers who open their main shop for business on just 96 days a year”. It would be interesting to turn that spotlight on to his own working year and compare the two jobs and I imagine he would argue quite correctly that being a professor involves more than the times spent lecturing!
That the political system and political class is a problem is a major theme that runs through his article. He suggests we should bring in a superior calibre of politician than the one the voter currently elects. He even suggests they should be paid more! He proposes the number of TDs should be reduced “to about 75; to bring in new kinds of leaders with experience in various walks of professional life; and to pay such people a competitive salary (but with no frills or extras) for running a country rather than a local clinic”. Does he not remember that it is the voter that votes for our current TDs? And that they can vote to re elect them or elect different TDs and different political parties at the next election? His notion of “bringing in” a superior calibre of people to those the people elect smacks of something very elitist and undemocratic to me. I find it incredible that he could even write such stuff and not question it himself before it went to print.
On the criticism he makes of the TDs' work on local, constituency and clinic matters, “instead of running the country”, he forgets that our country is populated by people that live in local towns and villages and streets and lanes. Government is for those people, not some abstract idea of country. He is yet another commentator to single out, although he does not name it such, “clientelism” as the problem with our political system. He doesn’t seem to know that the people who approach TDs locally or at clinics etc. include the poorest of the poor. Those are the so called "clients", under our so called "clientelist" system, who are being blamed for the state of our economy. But it was not the local man approaching the TD at a constituency clinic that gave rise to the tax breaks for developers. The Bankers did not go to a TDs’ clinic when they sought and gained the Bank Guarantee back in September 2008. IBEC, the CIF and the other lobby groups for the wealthy and powerful don't go to constituency clinics. Yet it’s those that go to TDs’ clinics that are the problem? So called "clients" are constituents and more importantly voters who all have the same power at the ballot box under our present system to vote for change. Would it really be reform to take the "clients" (in other words the constituents and the voters) out of our political system because of their alleged crime of making TDs focus on the local and their daily lives at a time when it is the voters living in local constituencies that will face the fall out most of the bank bail outs and the cuts in public expenditure? And that, according to Professor Kiberd, is supposed to be radical and for the better?
'Returning to the spirit of Tiger Ireland is pointless. Only a completely new political movement can tackle the challenges' by Professor Declan Kiberd. Irish Times 13 March 2010.