It’s not very Irish to expound your political opinions. Indeed Bertie Ahern, to our shame the most successful politician in Irish democratic history, prided himself in his party’s lack of ‘ologys’ (ideologies). A proven piece of Irish career advice is to ‘say nothing to no one and smile and nod to everyone’. Maybe our colonial past makes us reluctant to be seen to imperiously suggest to others how things should be done.
In Ireland, ideological debate has been a pastime for the parties on the fringes. The major political parties of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have for a long time operated ideology free with a shared commitment to the status quo. When the two dominant parties are de facto favor clubs where support is traded for patronage, the common good has come dead last to the vested interests of organized lobbies.
It’s tragically apparent that the Irish political system has failed utterly. If we are to return the state to a sound economic footing and restore the prospects of the next generation we must fundamentally reform the Irish political system. We have elected politicians who promised us a responsibility free life where everyone has rights but very few obligations. Despite voluminous waffle about building a “Smart Economy” we have created a “Nonsense Economy” where all the incentives are to reward those who avoid risk. The governing principle has been to reward loyalty with security of tenure. Performance management is a foreign concept that has been fiercely resisted in our public service and professions. We have abandoned any sense of equity by adopting the politically expedient principle of “last in worst paid”. The security of the incumbent generation comes at great cost to our youth and future generations. We can not allow this situation to continue.
Current political discussion revolves around the short to medium term considerations of where our next bailout will come from. Nobody in government has had the vision and courage to address the urgent changes required to secure our long term future and we continue to pay Europe leading salaries, increments, and boom time pensions to our public service who remain insulated from any requirement to change. I find it deeply depressing that our political establishment should so readily trade our long term interests for short term comfort when I consider the hardships so willingly endured by my grandfather and his generation to secure our independence.
The country is in a shameful mess. It is high time for each of us to get over our embarrassment, engage with politics and start putting things right.
The days for saying nothing and smiling are over. Let’s change things for the better.