Mr. Stephen Collins of The Irish Times (Put on your trousers when you read that, for God’s sake!) pointed out on Saturday the great unspoken doubt about social partnership. Who are these people? Yes, they say they “represent” their members, but how many ordinary trade unionists, whom themselves make up a minority of Irish workers, actually vote in ICTU elections?
The funny thing is that we have an entire house of parliament set up to represent those same interests. Dev, whose eye was caught by the fascist (And Catholic) thinking of the time set up the Seanad in what were then called corporate panels and what we would see as social partners now.
Why not just use it? Why not let every citizen register to the panel of their choice (Labour, Education and Culture, Culture, Commerical and Industrial, Agricultural and Public Administration) and vote for senators running in those areas?
There would be problems. Firstly, in the most dreaded words of the Irish politician who hates having to take political opinions on anything as opposed to getting the pension for the aul wans, it would be “divisive.” In other words, we would have an election campaign where the various sections of Irish society would openly go at each other. Would this be a good or bad thing? I’m not sure, but it’d be fun.
Secondly, and here’s the reason why our elected representatives would never agree: It would make the Dail impotent. Imagine the contrast: In the Seanad you’d have businessmen, farmers, trades unions and academics, elected from policy constituencies, kicking the crap out of each other, whilst in the Dail we’d have the usual ” I call forcefully on the minister for a full scale review of whatever it is we are debating today.” It would show up the shocking emptiness of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael who have managed to take the politics out of politics. Ain’t going to happen.
Still, was a nice idea.