Irish parliamentary system is 'a parody of democracy'

Irish people need to dispense with any vestige of hope they have in the governing culture, Prof Diarmaid Ferriter of UCD said at a lecture yesterday evening, quoting from Fintan O'Toole's new book.

Speaking at the launch of O'Toole's book, Enough is Enough: How to Build a New Republic, Ferriter said that the title's approach was necessary in order to tackle the social and economic problems facing the country. Ferriter said that if some of the ideas in the book appear radical it is because they are being considered in an Irish context. He added that many of the suggestions put forward by the author are already in operation in other countries.

In praising O'Toole's book, the UCD history professor said the absence of a sense of 'enough is enough' had done a lot of damage to the country.

He said Fintan O'Toole had recognised that it was important not only to articulate anger at the current state of things, but also to think about solutions, which is the subject of the new book.

In order to find these solutions O'Toole had to "engage with the absurdities of the Republic", Ferriter said. The book suggests a way forward for Ireland, promoting a "creative synthesis between State and community".

'Exploding myths' is another focus of the book and it argues that parliamentary democracy does not exist. It shows that "we have a charade in that sense, a parody of democracy" Ferriter said. He spoke about the lack of accountability in government where ministers and civil servants hide behind each other, refusing to accept blame.

Referring to tax relief on private pension contributions (where 80% of the benefits go to the richest 20% of the population) he said we need to rethink what constitutes wealth and how we measure it.

He spoke about the two-tier health system, describing it as "the greatest single source of concern about public provision in this country".

Fintan O'Toole spoke about citizens reclaiming the political process for themselves; he said that the Irish people must imagine a future for themselves.

He drew attention to the approaching centenary of the 1916 Rising saying we cannot mark this event "with a State that has been entirely stripped away, a society divided between those who can survive and those who cannot".

Citing the success of voluntary groups, development agencies, and the GAA, Mr O'Toole said we need to "put the power back where it works". He said Irish citizens need to restore a sense of pride, honour, and engagement with politics.

The launch took place at the independent Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar. Enough is Enough: How to Build a New Republic is published by Faber and Faber of London. It is a follow-up to the best-selling Ship of Fools.