There’s a funny scene in Woody Allen’s “Bullets over Broadway” where John Cusack’s character, a playwright, is distraught at selling out commercially and opens a window in the middle of the night to scream out “I am a whore!” I sometimes wonder do young first term Fine Gael or Labour TDs wake up at night in a similar cold sweat, wondering what happened? Not all of them, obviously. Some of them just wanted to become professional politicians for pretty much whatever party would have them. But there are others who must surely must have run for the Dail and Seanad to change the world, or at least Ireland. Yet when you look at what they have let their government do to the Constitutional Convention, they must be puce with shame.
Conor O’Mahony’s (no relation) analysis in this week’s Irish Times hit the nail right of the head. Fine Gael and Labour have shamelessly conspired to trivialise the CC and ensure that anything that comes out of it will not upset the current massive centralisation of power in the cabinet.
So, if I were a genuine FG or Labour reformer in the Dail or Seanad, what would I do? I’d push for the one reform that opens the door to every other reform, that is, to allow for citizens, with safeguards on turnout and to prevent unfunded spending implications, be able to initiate constitutional referendums without Oireachtas approval. Overnight, well-organised groups of citizens could overrule the single greatest obstacle to political change in this country: our politicians.
Of course, that would require the young reformers to decide whose side they were on, and to choose possibly between being a Noel Browne-style politician who does one thing that is remembered forever, or being one of the boys who sits in the house for thirty years, forgotten the day after he leaves the house. I know which way my conscience would force me.