TEMPTING as it might be to confront politicians asking for your vote over the coming weeks with a plague-on-all-your-houses tirade, the fleeting moment might be put to better use.
An opportunity for a vigorous face-to-face with someone defending the system that has become remote, unaccountable, unreliable and ineffective might be satisfying but it will achieve little more than throwing eggs at untouchable bankers.
We are all familiar with the politician slipping the tackle saying the issue is not being raised on doorsteps. In the next few weeks we have an opportunity to close off that escape route and we should make full use of it.
We can ask why so many of our children are taught in prefabs. We can ask why so many children – one-in-five – do not complete second-level education.
We can ask why so many public employees are paid far, far more than European counterparts. We can ask where the public sector reform matched with benchmarking has gone. Ask about decentralisation or e-voting if you like but don’t expect a coherent response. Ask why our political system has become such a self-perpetuating monolith incapable of accounting for itself, the censored Monageer report being the latest shameful example of that.
We can ask why individuals or institutions can give two fingers to Oireachtas committees asking them to give evidence on various subjects. Ask candidates what steps they have – not will have – taken to make parliament more effective. Ask why we sustain the Senate which is no more than a blathering shop for those who can’t get elected to the Dáil.
Ask them, every last one of them, what’s the point in bringing in all of these new laws to combat organised crime when the state-of-the-art prison planned to deal with the results of that legislation – Thornton Hall – has been mothballed. Ask them too about the €40 million spent on that deferred project.
Ask why, especially if you are in Waterford, legislation recommended by Europe and designed to protect pensions has not been enacted. Ask why there is surrender after surrender when various lobby groups put the squeeze on legislation designed to protect society.
Last year the Government passed the Intoxicating Liquor Act but it has been usurped by a “voluntary code” designed by supermarkets and multiples. Justice Minister Dermot Ahern Minister has even volunteered to enshrine the voluntary code in law.
Of course we are used to legislation being emasculated, the attacks on the Freedom of Information Act have almost rendered that legislation redundant.
If, at this stage, your canvasser has not fled seeking less challenging voters, ask about the health service or the environment maybe, or how milk producers are being beggared by powerful retail interests. The list is almost endless and the responses almost crushing in their crassness and lack of vision.
George Bernard Shaw described democracy as “a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve”. In the coming weeks we have an opportunity to explain why we are so angry and why we feel so betrayed by politicians of all parties. If we do not we cannot expect anything other than more of the same.
Be angry; demand answers and action.
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