Depending on where you stand, the word “politics” means two things in Ireland. To people not holding public office, it mostly means the business of how the country is run. But to those within the political system, it seems, more and more, to mean a system of accessing very generous pay, pensions and benefits and the means of keeping them by remaining in office. Nearly every person I know who has worked in Irish government has remarked how life in government, at least at political level, is a series of panicked “Today’s Crisis Today” episodes where no one actually has any incentive as to actually doing anything for medium or long term reasons.
This government in particular is turning out to be quite shocking as it reveals that most of its ministers seem to have given almost no thought to what would happen the day after the election. Just think about all the major issues the government is dealing with. Most are driven by other people (The IMF, EU, the bond markets) or crisis (abortion). It’s hard to point to many major government areas of action that are being driven by a desire within Fine Gael and Labour to actually change something for the better. In fact, if you look at the Constitutional Convention, which is THEIR big political reform idea, they have gone out of their way to make sure that it doesn’t do anything of significance. And it was their idea!
What’s very apparent is that this government, like the one before it, regards spending other people’s money as pretty much the main purpose of government, and now that they have no money, they are too lacking in imagination to push the things they could do which would not cost much money. Take the issue of former ministers exorbitant pensions, or reducing the Dail by 20 seats, or scrapping upward only rent reviews. The govt parties talked about all three of these things in opposition. All could be changed by referendum. So why aren’t they?