I have started watching the much acclaimed “Boardwalk Empire” and have been enjoying it.
One aspect of it which struck me was the fact that the main character, Nucky Thompson, a local
county politician, actually has power. He has to intereact with other politicians, senators, governors, mayors, etc, but it is all about men (it is set in 1920) with power doing deals.
It reminded me of that curious aspect of Irish society, how powerlessness is wallowed in by Irish people, almost taking a masochistic pleasure in our helplessness. Just think about how the people of Scotland are debating power, or how the Basques or Catalonia regard taking control of their countries as being the first step in shaping their lives.Watch any US political drama and see politicians at all levels of office with the power to order things.
Now look at the Irish. In recent times we have had people complain about septic tanks, local hospitals, property taxes, water taxes, and cuts in local services. Yet hardly ever during this debate, despite whinging about the EU, IMF, and “dem up in Dublin”, has there ever been a serious political drive by counties or regions to take control of their own affairs.
Take county councils. Most county councillors complain vocally about having no power. Most county councillors are members of Fine Gael. Which party is leading the government, and has the most seats in parliament? Yet Fine Gael councillors aren’t rebelling in huge numbers at their alleged powerlessness. The truth is, self empowerment is not a big issue in Ireland because large numbers of Irish people don’t like taking responsibility, and it manifests itself in weird ways.
Witness the ding dong that happens about how tough enforcement of drink driving laws discriminates against rural areas. Maybe it does. But where are the local TDs and councillors in Fine Gael (and FF before them.) actually demanding legislation to allow for local councils to decide their own drinking arrangements, their own closing times and own enforcement regimes?
If the people of Mattie McGrath’s constituency do not regard septic tank polluted water as being a big issue, let them vote to permit faeces in their drinking water, with the national government merely ensuring that outsiders (like tourists) know that water in Tipperary is similar to that in say, Somalia, and that if Tipperary poisons another county’s water then Tipperary taxpayers get fined to clean it. Give them that power. It’s their county, and their water, shit free or not.