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.

5 Comments

Kevin Ryan
Apr 2, 2011 at 8:04 am

Good points, although I think you confuse friendship/loyalty among certain groups in society (dare I use the ‘class’ word?) with a more general sense of the country knowing each other.

The same people who look out for some distant-but-connected wrongdoer (a fellow professional, their local TD, etc.) are often the same people who will shrug their shoulders at the plight of an unemployed neighbour. A glance at the level of social provision doesn’t support the idea that the Irish are more intimately friendly and cooperative towards their fellow citizens than are the Swedes or the Finns, or if we are it’s only on a social and not a political level.

More broadly, the level of corruption in Ireland is severely underestimated since looking after one’s buddies, without need for a bribe, isn’t even thought of as corrupt. And yes, our northern European friends would sniff that out in an instant.


 
Thirsty Gargoyle
Apr 2, 2011 at 11:15 am

The idea’s not a bad one, though it may well be a mad one. It may well be why when the Catholic Church in Ireland got round to setting up proper child protection arrangements a few years back, they picked a Northern Presbyterian to head it. Essentially, they knew he’d be an outsider and wouldn’t be desperate to believe that people were good people, just because he knew them.

Certainly, conspiracies of silence seem to be what we do, and I think you’re got something there as to why.


 
Shane
Apr 2, 2011 at 2:29 pm

“we” as a culture? Getting all John Waters/Dana on us here. The answer doesn’t lie in mysticism. But the Unionists were right in a way, self-rule was Rome-rule. The further we move to a secular society(which we are only nominally), the closer we’ll get to stop tolerating being abused.

The government has by and large been FF, the “natural party of government”,for the past 90 years.

Fianna Fail, upon coming to power in 1997, unleashed their usual brand of arrogant, parish-pump, corruption. Crippling the FOI laws, the Abbeylara decision. The corporate donations laws are German level efficient at hiding who pays the piper. A hugely weakened FG opposition at the start of the government. The legacy of conservatism had already left a largely archaic state.

This poison then trickles down from the top,finding space to funnel down the same furrows previously dug by the Church’s striving patriarchal anti-intellectualism. I remember my leaving cert history and economics books with astonishment at the utter drivel in them, separate from reality or critical views. For religion we were made to google image “abortions” instead of debate it.

Apart from the Moriarty findings indicating corruption in the previous non-FF government, it was by and large seen as competent. What state is free of corruption? See MEP/lobbyist revelations of previous weeks(all of different countries and parties and wages).

Businessmen and corporations using the state as their own personal ATM via the parties of business does not equate to an inherent flaw in the people of this island’s character. Manipulation of the weak by the strong is more apt. Greed is the knife and the scars run deep! /rant over.


 
david morris
Apr 2, 2011 at 8:43 pm

In the reel world your question is moot, as any fule no, guvmint of the Irish Republik has already been outsourced to Brussels. (And check out how the snouts in the trough MEPs are doing in the corruption stakes over there – rather well actually).

There will be no change until the ATMs run out of cash, which happily will happen sooner than you think.

Kind regards


 
Jason O
Apr 3, 2011 at 7:56 am

Happily?


 

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