The power of recall
A sign hangs from the gates of Leinster House this week: "gone on holidays" it reads, and it's signed by our entire elected political establishment. As you walk the now silent halls of the Dáil you notice the signs of the hurried summer departure, like schoolchildren at the end of term - hallways empty, offices vacated. All of our newly elected officials, who promised us the world if elected, are gone. Surprised? You shouldn't be. Our apathy let them go.
As a nation we talk and complain a lot but rarely (if ever) act on those complaints. Reams of newsprint record our myriad opinions, TV programmes reflect our anger and concern about issues. But that's it. We don't match our rhetoric with action. Perhaps we see the complaining as the action, but it isn't. Our elected officials listen with half an ear; and despite the dire situation we find our country in, they go on holidays. Something has to change. Our elected officials have lived off of the fat of the land for too long; cocooned in relative luxury forgetting about us until election time comes around again. It's time that changed.
In order to effect change though, we have to change first from a nation of talkers to a nation of doers. We have to take responsibility for the people we put in office and the work, or lack of it, they do there.
As a nation and a people we have come through cataclysmic events over the past years, yet we did little about them. The reports of clerical and institutional child abuse should have had us on the streets, mad as hell, demanding justice. Instead we stayed home. The destruction of our financial institutions and the devaluing of our properties should have drawn us to Leinster House screaming for blood. It didn't. And we wonder why our elected politicians ignore us.
They see themselves as untouchable; wrapped in the privileges of office. Our politicians like to tout the idea that they are 'public servants'. That they, at great personal sacrifice, serve the people. Those who truly serve the public are few. They do serve themselves however. They have forgotten that they are elected to serve us first and foremost.
The solution is to put in place a process to hold members of the Dáil to account for lack of performance. That process is the power of recall. 'Recall' is the ability to remove individual elected members of government and strip them of their positions, salary and pension should the public decide they are not doing their jobs. It requires that a public petition is gathered with a predetermined number of voters' signatures. This is presented to the Dáil to recall someone from office and negate their election. It is a powerful stick with which to manage the elected. And it works.
In some U.S. cities and states, mayors, governors and council members have been recalled by an electorate armed with the power of a petition. Powerful stuff. And effective too. Just the threat of recall would be enough to get the attention of members of the Dáil. If those who work in private industry can live under the threat of dire consequences for non-performance, our politicians, who demanded comparable salaries to private industry during the days of 'prosperity' should expect no less. For this simple change to succeed depends on us. It's our country and we need to start behaving collectively to ensure that our elected officials understand that they work for us first and foremost and are accountable to us. Or suffer the consequences.
The question is, can we, will we, do it?
Evin Daly is the CEO of One Child International Inc., a nonprofit child advocacy with offices in Fort Lauderdale, Dublin and Sydney. One Child distributes millions of copies of free child protection and abuse prevention literature world-wide. www.abusewatch.net
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