Sarah Carey, in an interesting article in The Irish Times today, opines that the nation’s problems arising from weak economic policy and poor regulation can be directly attributed to how the electorate voted and that the electorate must therefore shoulder the blame for the consequences.
The practice of voting for whoever will benefit their pocket has got Ireland to where we now are and that, while policies change, fundamental character does not.
This is undoubtedly conservative, traditional, politically in-bred society although their is a hint of change in the air. But if elections are held every five years and a crisis emerges mid-term, are voters not entitled to expect some semblance of vicarious responsibility, competence and accountability on the part of the political system, if not from each of the individuals voted into office? The political system comprises the elected combined with the appointed officials who call the shots and run the country.
These are the people who allow houses to be built on flood plains. These are the politicians who choose tribunals’, with the lifespan of an elephant, as the means of investigating malfeasance with no judicial consequences but providing lawyers with enormous rewards in the form of professional fees. These are also the politicians who launched three compelling and searching investigations into clerical child sex abuse and knocked the incumbents of self-righteousness off their velvet perches. These are the politicians who successfully introduced a culture change in the form of the smoking ban and they are the politicians who presided over the FÁS debacle and its gilded peasant aristocracy.
Individual voters’ cannot have and cannot be expected to have the expertise or judgment to determine which policies are sustainable and which are not. That is the function of leadership. It is also the function of leadership to educate the public on the merits of their advocacy. Voters are also entitled to the protection of an accountable leadership.
The custom of voting for the party who will benefit the pocket will not change but the perception of what actually benefits the pocket will.
The next time voters go to the polls they will vividly remember and punish severely all politicians implicated in the misery afflicting this country. They will recall the truths, half-truths, damned lies and opaque nuances, ignorance of basic economics, ineptitude and complicity that is politicians' common currency. The collapse of some politicians at the polls will be as dramatic as that of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, two of the names cited in defence of the utterly indefensible.
Voters will reflect carefully on the deleterious consequences of awful governance and sheer delinquency. They will note how many of those who directly wreaked havoc continue to be cosseted by the patronage of the government with positions of influence, prominence and power. They will see past the caricatures of FitzPatrick and Fingleton, Ahern and Cowen and vote with passion and purpose. Policies will change and so will the capacity to ensure their effective execution.
I am often amazed by the wisdom of electorates acting collectively; by the frequently fine balanced judgements they make. Whatever criticisms one might make, the notion of being stupid or politically blind is not one that can stick. Thank God for the floating voter!