Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

Are the Irish actually capable of governing themselves?

Posted by Jason O on Apr 2, 2011 in Irish Politics

Finland Inc: Fancy the deluxe FinnClean anti-corrupt Govt package? On special this month?
Finland Inc: Fancy the deluxe FinnClean anti-corrupt Govt package? On special this month?

I was weary of writing such a post, given the 1906 Unionist undertone to it, that Paddy just hasn’t got the head for the complicated business of running his own state. We always assume that those asking such a question are essentially saying that the Irish are just too thick to do the business. Yet this is definitively not so: Not only did we devise a military strategy that defeated the most powerful empire on Earth, but our business people, our writers, our actors have shown themselves more than capable of competing on the world stage. It’s not a question of intelligence. It’s actually worse than that.

The problem is that if you put a critical mass of Irish together, our strengths, our loyalty and bond as a people, begin to work against us. Why do we not jail more white collar criminals? Why do 14,000 seemingly ordinary people support a man who is was obviousy corrupt when he was a government minister? Because we know them. Because we’re the sort of people whom if our friend came to us and said “I’ve killed a man!” we’d listen to the details sub-consciously searching for a reason to remain loyal to our friend. It is a quality that has kept us together as a people, and helped us defeat the British in a guerilla war. The problem is that such a culture struggles to function in a complex rules-based modern society and economy. In fact, as PPARS and eVoting and the tribunals and every auditor general’s report shows, it doesn’t. No one every gets blamed and held responsible, because, in short, we all know each other.

Can we continue like this? Possibly, as a sort of failed state without the violence. Paralysed from rooting out inefficiency by our relationships, we can just stumble along with 15% unemployment and huge chunks of public spending being badly spent because we don’t do boat-rocking. Or maybe we could do something radical. I joked in a post earlier this week, and it was a joke, about the idea of outsourcing our government. Could a country like, say, Finland or Sweden, countries that top the anti-corruption leagues, actually begin to export those qualities? Could we admit that we have a serious problem, and so bring in outsiders who aren’t embedded in our scratch-and-be-scratched culture but will coldly do a job as laid out in the rules we purport to want obeyed? Could we create a roving Anti-Corruption Commission, peopled by experts not from these shores, to work its way systematically through our institutions, prosecuting as it goes?

I can see the objections already. That it’s humiliating. Disrespectful to the Irish people. Damages national sovereignty, funnily enough, all the descriptions that other countries affix to corruption itself. We affix them to fighting corruption. But let’s be honest. There is a single reason why we as a society would be horrified at the idea of the Finns or the Swedes coming over here looking under every rock for corruption.

We’d be terrified that they’d find it.

Copyright © 2020 Jason O Mahony All rights reserved. Email: Jason@JasonOMahony.ie.