Deepening crisis demands a new type of response

Empowering citizens, and recognising the right of the people to be the decision makers in the State is the only political objective worth pursuing, writes Diarmaid Ó Cadhla.

The news this past week has been grim: the crisis is deepening. We have ever increasing numbers unemployed, continuing emigration, more families facing mortgage crisis and more cutbacks in essential services. These problems in our society are causing untold destruction to the lives of individuals, families and whole communities. The domestic economy continues to contract and our future prospects are grim indeed. They say it’s about ‘balance’, ‘fairness’ and keeping within budgets. Government and opposition in Dáil Éireann are debating the ‘fairness’ of different cuts, discussing the situation in the same old Punch & Judy way; acting out a show.

The discussion is all about reaching ‘balance’ in bearing the hardships imposed by the banking crisis and the terms of the ECB/IMF ‘bailout’. Fine Gael and Labour, though tinkering with different rates and different emphasis, are following the same general line as their predecessors, and the same vested interests are being looked after. The budget itself is dictated by the need to serve these vested interests; we could resolve any deficit issues ourselves if we were allowed to control our own resources and plan our economy. The general election has counted for nothing; once again the people have been deceived and our needs ignored. The debate for change is a sham.

This debate is dominated by the usual ‘experts’: political party spokespeople, media hacks, well-paid academics, trade union chiefs and corporate executives. It is dominated by the national and international representatives of the same vested interests who continue to benefit while the people are made to pay. In other words, the same political forces that led us into this crisis are the ones currently ‘managing’ it; they are the ones dictating our response to the crisis. The constant discussion in all the main media outlets might well have taken place twenty years ago or two years ago; it has not moved on. The same ‘experts’ who have been proven drastically wrong in the past are still asked for their analysis today; they are not condemned as the overpaid charlatans that they are. Politicians continue to lie and deceive the people and are not called to account for it; their words are taken and repeated as if they added to our understanding of anything.

The main media outlets are part of the complex of vested interests themselves, and they promote the myth that the problems are complex; that we need these ‘experts’ to explain it to us, that there is no alternative etc. The single and most important voice missing from the debate is that of the Irish people.

No one consulted with the people on any of the issues that have emerged. None of the parties in Dáil Éireann recognise the right, in practice, of the people to exercise their sovereignty as the decision makers and rightful creators of state policy. If they did they would stop imposing their own policy and they would end the whip system along with all the other mechanisms they use to disenfranchise citizens. All of the parties say they are acting for the people; that they have a mandate received at election, but this is untrue. Even if this was true, the fact is that most elected representatives are themselves powerless in the Dáil due to the structure of the political system as it currently exists. Citizens have no mechanism for controlling these politicians or their parties and we are effectively excluded from the decision-making in our own state.

Real change is needed, but how can we bring it about? First, we must end the endless sham debates that only ever take place within the parameters set down by the vested interests that control our lives. Second, we must start the work for the empowerment of citizens, as opposed to politicians backed by one vested interest or another. A programme for this, specific to Ireland’s circumstances, is being elaborated by The People’s Convention and discussion on its work is ongoing. It is this self-empowerment of the people that will transform everything. It will provide the platform from which decisions can be made to build our economy, and our cultural, social and political life. Empowerment of the citizens begins with ourselves, and each of us must be counted. We must leave all baggage behind. Our own personal political preferences must take second place to the need for the empowerment of the citizens.

Recognition of the right of the people to be the decision makers in our state must come before everything. Without that no other political objective is worthy; with it everything worthwhile becomes possible. Recognition of the sovereignty of the people amounts to nothing unless we embrace the reality of it. The people, without restriction, are the rightful creators of state policy. No political party has the right to decide policy for the people – such parties are just private clubs with their own agenda.

Readers are invited to comment on this article either here or via thefuture Initiative's Facebook page. Regular commentary and exchange of ideas is available from Grá Tíre (@gratire) on Twitter.

Diarmaid Ó Cadhla is national spokesperson for The People's Convention (CPPC) and editor of thefuture Initiative.

Image top: Phillie Casablanca.