What happens to young first term deputies, when they enter Leinster House on their first day? They go in, in many cases, with sincere hopes about changing the way things are done, and within weeks they’ve been changed into “Same as it ever was” Stepford candidates. Are they replacing them with alien replicants? Are they sticking mind control beetles into their ears like “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan”?
Alas, there isn’t a conspiracy. Like communism and fascism before it, it tends not to be individuals but the system itself which moulds the individual.
Remember the story of the three monkeys in the lab? A banana is offered through a hatch, but when a monkey touches the banana, all three get an electric shock, so the monkeys learn not to touch the banana. Then one monkey is replaced by another monkey, who knows nothing of the electric shocks. When he tries to take the banana, the other two monkeys, aware of the consequences, beat the crap out of him. Then a second monkey is replaced. When he tries to take a banana, the other two monkeys beat him up. Then the last shocked monkey is replaced, and you have a social system that does things for no other reason than that’s been the way it’s always been done. That’s the Irish political system right there. Monkeys staring at a banana.
Just look at the watery faux political reforms FG and Labour are pushing: all nonsense which avoids the fundamental question: will it transfer power from the political elite around the cabinet to individual citizens? In every single proposal put by FG and Labour, the answer is no. We can’t be that surprised with FG, after all, they’re just Fianna Failers who shop in Marks and Spencer rather than Dunnes, but Labour? Labour are the real sellout party, the traitors of reform. After all, we always suspected that FG were full of shit anyway. In the PDs we used to refer to ourselves as the party that does the things that FG always talked about but never did. After all, the PDs cut taxes more in their short life than FG did over its entire existance.
But Labour, the people’s party? The real source of disgust with Labour doesn’t come from the economic decisions they are making because they don’t really have a choice, and haven’t been a left wing party since the late 1980s anyway. The real source of disgust is their abandoning of real political change for selfish reasons. Did any of the new Labour TDs really think when they thought about political reform they were taking about reducing the president’s term from seven to five years? Seriously? The only reason Labour is not pushing radical stuff at the convention is because Labour is now in power, and doesn’t want to share it, which is exactly the way FG and FF think. If FG are FF with posher accents, Labour are now FG with gay friends.
If we had a None Of The Above option on our ballot papers, declaring that if it got 50% of the vote in any constituency, a second vote must be held but with all new candidates, I wonder how it would do? I doubt it would ever pass, because the Irish are essentially content with their political system (how else do the three parties that have run the state since the 1920s still get 65% of the vote in opinion polls?) but at least it would be somewhere for the frustrated to formally lodge their protest.