It’s the same old story. An Irish government gets elected promising to reform how politics is done in the country, and once in power decides that things are actually grand the way they are. This might have made sense in a self-interested way when the government had plenty of money and wanted to keep it to disperse itself, and the credit with it.
But now we live in a different time where there’s pretty much no credit to hog, and yet the government still wants to play by the old rules? Take the whole upcoming budget debate. Keeping the old budget system of everything remaining secret until budget day does not actually help the government. Instead, the government should lay out all the options for taxes and cuts on offer, and hand over a week of debate time to the opposition, with Dept of Finance support, to propose their alternatives, with all options commented on by the Fiscal Council. What is the worst that can happen? Fianna Fail’s bluff gets called?
It’s the same with local government reform. Fine Gael and Labour think they’re being really clever centralising power. Instead all they are doing is providing a blame-free taxpayer-funded county councillor platform for aspiring opposition TDs to go after FG and Labour property-tax-rising sitting government TDs in the next general election. They are so trapped in old fashioned thinking that they are willingly keeping all the bad news and blame for hard decisions for themselves, rather than forcing opposition candidates to make and defend unpopular decisions locally. Why is Eamon Gilmore so eager to prevent Mayor Joe Higgins or Richard Boyd Barrett from having to defend which library or swimming pool he had to choose to close? Can they not actually see this?
Imagine if they did reform local government, and half of FF, SF and the ULA’s candidates were sitting mayors (assuming they obey their party leader demands that they resign their mayoralty) who had had to actually take personal responsibility for their county budgets, in other words, actually having records of decisions on tax and spending for FG and Labour TDs to run against?
Not only is FG and Labour’s opposition to political reform not good for the country: it’s not even good politics.