Tag Archives: political class

Operation Mizen, The Irish Stasi And The Risen People

I remember well, others will too, that 30 years ago our political class – politicians, media owners and operatives, professionals, the wealthy, the clergy, senior civil servants and senior army and police officers, etc., would regularly point to the East German Stasi state security service, and proudly remind us plebs how lucky we were to live in a democracy and not under an atheistic communistic dictatorship.

‘Operation Mizen’, the organised surveillance of anti-water-charge activists by the state police is straight out of the Stasi handbook. The Stasi handbook is remarkably similar to the Fascist handbook when it comes to state ‘security’. State ‘security’ in either handbook does not mean the security of the people. It means the security of those people who form the political class and the suppression, vilification and, where expedient, the incarceration of those who challenge political class authority.

Irish anti-water-charge activists do just that, not just the nominal ‘leaders’ but any who actively resist the imposition of taxes and charges that are not based on a democratic mandate of any sort but are imposed in a dictatorial fashion, that is, in a way that can only be described as anti-democratic. We challenge the authority of that 20% of the people who can be dubbed ‘the political class’, and with whom all power resides, they think.

We challenge the authority of that 20% because we believe in the value of democratic control, of legitimate authority derived from the people and exercised on our behalf, and we know that none of those conditions exist in this state. We challenge that authority based on all of the evidence we have to hand of sustained egregious corruption, gross incompetence, and tyrannical behaviour of the political class, and its use of coercion, manipulation, dishonesty, misappropriation of public monies, jobbery and nepotism, corruption of the courts and judicial procedures, its refusal to prosecute proven bribers of public office holders and those office holders themselves, and its in-our-faces kleptocracy.

We dissent from all of that. We are, therefore, dissidents in the true sense of that word, and we are proud of that. We take the only ethical course of action in the face of such corruption and tyranny. We say NO! to all of that.

We will not be monitored by a home-grown Stasi. We will not be ruled by Fascists. We will not be robbed by the political class, including its oligarchs. We will not have our essential services or our national resources privatised. We will not have the concepts of law or justice perverted for the use of the few against the many. We will not countenance, any more, the victimisation of oppressed groups in our society – the poor, children, the sick, the aged, women so that society is deliberately divided and exploited for the benefit of the few and the impoverishment of the many.

We who dissent stand together. We put aside petty differences in the common good. No Stasi-like police operation will stop us, or divide us. Those politicians who established that police-state and participated in that kleptocracy and established that anti-democratic tyranny, and we know who they are, will feel our breath on their necks. We are coming to get them.

We are the Risen People, and we are on the move.

Towards a Sociology of Power in Ireland

Sociologists, and sociology departments at our universities, regularly engage in scientific examination so as to produce a sociology of Travellers, or single mothers, or the unemployed, or emigrants/immigrants, or the working class/middle class and so on, because it seems we really need to understand these people and these communities or categories in terms of behaviour, attitudes, structures, origins, education, wealth or the lack of, etc.

Wouldn’t it be very enlightening and very useful if the same sociologists and sociology departments turned their attention to producing a sociology of judges, for instance, or of the wider legal profession? Wouldn’t it be very enlightening and useful to have available a sociology of medical practitioners, a sociology of parliamentarians, a sociology of appointees to State boards and public bodies, a sociology of leading capitalists… you get the drift?

It seems to me that that is the work that sociologists should be doing. We have masses of data on the ruled. How about the same detail about the rulers, the powerful, the wealthy, the professional facilitators, the ‘experts’ – including academics whose findings and views are often used to buttress power. A sociology of sociologists, perhaps?

Fifteen years ago, Brian McNair pointed out the need for A Sociology of Journalism in his book of that title. The need for that particular bit of knowledge hardly needs explaining, but fifteen years later, where is the research, where is the analysis of this extraordinarily powerful institution/profession in Ireland? Where is the sociology of state broadcasting and corporate media in Ireland? Nowhere to be seen.

Come on! It is not as if there is not an army of undergrad and post-grad students out there in relevant departments in every one of our universities looking for useful and interesting research with which to engage on their way to qualification and graduation. It is not as if there is not a swarm of sociology lecturers/professors, many of whom indicate they lean, even slightly, towards the political left. Well, come on, give us the goods, stop endlessly replicating previous work, stop gazing at the navel of the working class, the powerless, the ‘problem people’ – gifting to the powerful the information they need to better control society.

We need to know the provenance of power, so that we can understand it and deal with it, and perhaps even correct its faults. We will happily take it in installments, from different sources. We are well able to knit things together, more than capable of understanding the big picture from the sum of its elements.

And if some of this work is already done, as it must be, don’t leave it yellowing on some academic bookcase, or hidden from public view in some academic publication – write it up and put it out in the Public Sphere, where it should be.

We need a comprehensive sociology of the forms and facets and structures of power, and we need it now. Show us the money!

A Presidency With Enormous Potential

Yes, at the end of a tortuous journey, made all the more tortuous by a deeply flawed ‘journalism’, we have a President. In choosing Michael D Higgins to be President, over a million voters have given the wealthy Irish, and the rest of the political class, grounds for real unease.

In his early reactions to his election, Michael D has made clear his intention to work towards the creation of a true republic, something that will require real change – “This necessary transformation which has now begun will, I hope, result in making the values of equality, respect, participation in an active citizenship, the characteristic of the next seven years. The reconnection of society, economy and ethics, is a project we cannot postpone”.

Equality, respect, active citizenship, society and ethics are words that do not fit into the neo-liberal lexicon. They are words that have long been absent from the discourse of the southern Irish political class, other than for their propaganda value in which their use is entirely cynical. This absence is not a recent occurrence, but is part of a nine-decades-long counter-revolution, the central aim of which has been to defend privilege by maintaining a right-wing political hegemony in which lip-service was paid to the notion of a ‘republic’ while the principles upon which a genuine republic must be based – liberty, equality, community and justice – were consistently thrashed.

The maintenance of that right-wing political hegemony has been achieved by co-opting a willing corporate and state media – itself right-wing and hegemonic, complete with its token regard for ‘other views’ so as to present the necessary illusion of an impartial/balanced face to the public. Even the most cursory analysis of media content across the entire mainstream spectrum reveals the values that are given primacy, values consistent with the needs and desires of the wealthy and the rest of the political class, values which have no regard for those principles that underpin a republic, values that are contrary to the best interests of the vast majority of the Irish people.

So,  Michael D Higgins has lined up powerful people and powerful institutions as necessary targets and, wise man that he is, is very well aware that they will set their sights on him as a target. We should expect subtle and not-so-subtle attempts to undermine his project of creating a real republic with an active citizenry as its owners.

But President Higgins will not be an easy target, or a willing fall-guy. Over a long political career he has demonstrated courage and consistency of belief, often having to suffer the jibes of fools, and almost always winning at least the political and moral arguments, if not the logical outcome of winning those arguments. He has very significant public support based on a published manifesto in which the true republic and the citizen were integral parts, and that public is substantially the readership and audience for the media which would have to provide the theatre in which attempts to undermine him would play out. Readership and audience brings advertising, and the media would do well to remember that you lose one and then you lose the other.

Drawing on both his academic and political careers, Michael D will be a formidable opponent for the ‘commentariat’, particularly if the role of the media in a democracy comes up for examination – which it must do as an important byproduct of the discussion around creating a true republic. He was very much prepared to tackle powerful vested interests during his successful period as Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, a brief which included broadcasting policy and with which he engaged in an intelligent and resolute manner. He was very much prepared to draw on his deep convictions regarding justice, civil and human rights, opposition to imperialism and to war, to take up often unpopular or little reported causes and issues, on national and international fronts, and to withstand attacks from misguided, or ignorant, or malign commentators, including powerful governments.

Why would a man like Michael D put so much emphasis on a project – that of creating true republic – that has been buried for 90 years? A look at his background reveals at least part of the answer. He is the son of a man who fought for the Irish Republic of the Proclamation of 1916, not just in the War of Independence, but in the brutal and divisive Civil War that raged after the signing of the Anglo Irish Treaty and its ratification in 1922. His father, being on the losing side in that Civil War, suffered in terms of his health as a prisoner, and found it very difficult to find employment after his release in an Irish Free State ruled by anti-republican counter-revolutionaries. That was an experience common to very many on the republican side, both men and women, and through his father, Michael D. knew some of those people too. The Higgins family suffered greatly because of this, and so Michael D carries memories of not just his father’s sacrifice and of the damage his courageous participation in the struggle to establish the republic caused to him, but of the entire family’s sacrifice and suffering. It is a very emotional area for him.

In occasional private conversations, some short and others more substantial, mostly relating to modern Irish history, culture and society, Michael D has always come across to me as someone who is inspired by James Connolly to a far greater extent than anyone else in top echelons of the Labour Party. Perhaps it is this that has had him at times at the margins of the Labour Party. He is sometimes referred to as being the left-wing of the party, although there are a small number of other TDs who also occupy that position – but far too few.

Arising out of his presidency, the centenary celebrations of the founding of the Irish Labour Party which will occur in 2012 may become far more interesting than they might otherwise have been. In opening up public discussions on what sort of republic we want to build, and on the role citizens will have in that republic, Michael D may influence, from outside the Labour Party, the ideological direction that the party moves in over the next few years. And then in the following year we will have the centenary of the 1913 Lock-out in which the Labour Party’s founders, James Connolly and Jim Larkin, took the leading roles on the workers’ side, adding yet more pressure to today’s Labour Party to move towards the left.

Then, coming closer to the end of Michael D’s term in office there will be the big centenary in 2016, that of the revolution of April 24th 1916 and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. James Connolly was central to both the revolutionary action and the ideology of the Republic that that action sought to bring into being. Paragraph four of the Proclamation is, without doubt, Connolly’s work. It is, in effect, the Workers’ Republic, or at least provides the space in which that republic could be created by free citizens.

Michael D, fortunately, is the President who will, should he remain in good health, preside over the commemorations. There are few people who understand so well the deep meanings that lie in the text of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, and fewer still so able to mine those meanings and ideas, and to articulate them to the citizens. While most citizens have probably not read the Proclamation – a document that was virtually suppressed because of the counter-revolution – and fewer still have delved into the deeper structure of it in terms of what it means, there is a great emotional bond between a majority of Irish citizens and the Proclamation, even if they don’t fully understand it. This emotional attachment is something that, no doubt, Michael D will draw on over the course of the next four years in the run-up to 2016. After all, the sort of true republic that he has indicated he wishes to speak about is contained, substantially, in the Proclamation.

It will be intriguing to watch how all of this plays out. There is no doubt that Michael D has thought deeply about these things and these opportunities, and about how he might influence events through the power of his ideas and of his words. He knows that there is an enormous amount of goodwill for him out there among the public, that Sinn Féin, a party on an upward curve, will support him in his efforts to create a true republic and to face down a corrupt political class of which top media operatives are a part and which Sinn Féin has no love for, that in his former party, Labour, many among the parliamentary party but especially among the ordinary membership hold him in special affection, and that, crucially, history has given him significant centenaries and commemorations during his term in office.

The future looks brighter now for those who have been waiting a lifetime for a real republic, owned, as Plato suggested it must be over two thousand years ago, by the citizens. He will need allies as he sets about his project. As the ramifications of what establishing of a real republic entails become more apparent to powerful vested interests, including among those main-stream media operatives and commentators who act as spokes-men/women for the so-called ‘elite’ and the wealthy, President Higgins will need those allies even more, and will need them to make their voices heard.

This is a presidency with enormous potential. It demands steadfast commitment on the part of Michael D to see it bear fruit, and it demands equal commitment from those of us who believe the Irish revolution of 1916 must be brought to completion, and that the Irish Republic must stand proudly in the world as James Connolly wished it would-  a sovereign, enlightened, progressive republic acting as a beacon of hope to the oppressed people of the world. Its day has come.

A Conspiracy of Common Interest

Two items that illustrate the primacy that the political class in Ireland enjoys over the mass of other citizens have appeared in the media within days of each other.

A report in the Irish Examiner on May 16th draws on the latest Socio-Economic Review by Social Justice Ireland to present some stark facts about wealth and poverty in the so-called ‘Republic’ of Ireland. According to Social Justice Ireland (SJI), in 2009 the top 10% of Irish households received a staggering 25.83% of the country’s total disposable income, while the bottom 10% were forced to make do with a meagre 2.39%.

Contained within that top 10% of households are, of course, those members of the political class who wield enormous power which allows them to make, or shape, or sell to the public, those government policies that maintain and even widen the economic gap between the few at the top and the many in between and particularly at the bottom. If we had access to the figures for the top 5%, and especially the top 1%, then the disparity would be even more obscene.

What of the other end of the spectrum? According to SJI’s Review, close to 630,000 Irish citizens are below the poverty line, including up to 220,000 children. 90,000 of these citizens are what is known as the ‘working poor’ – they give up their week to a job, the reward for which toil is a wage that is not sufficient to lift them even marginally out of poverty.

As for the definition of what constitutes the ‘poverty line’ – it is pitched as being below 60% of the median income. In plain terms this amounts, in 2011, to the sum of €222.18 a week, a sum that would not cover the cost of a dinner for two in a moderate restaurant, or a visit to a fashionable hairdressing salon for one well-heeled woman, or a round of golf for a well-heeled man. But €222.18 is the amount that the ‘other’ citizens, if they can be deemed to be citizens in the real sense of the word, must live on week after week after week, the entire sum of money available to cover the cost of staying alive for another seven days, hoping that no unexpected emergencies arise.

Living slightly above this ‘poverty line’ are those who must toil for just marginally more, with no expectation that they can do more than get by, with a bit of luck. No luxuries, no small nest-egg for the rainy day, no margin of error in the spend on shopping. Grind a week in, then another, then another, hoping for the best.

But this rotten government, the latest in a long line of rotten governments, has plans to make that daily and weekly grind even more hopeless. It, like its predecessors, does not ‘have to’ destroy any vestigial hope that the poor and the working poor might have of some small respite from grinding poverty, it has chosen to. Remember that figure – the top 10% of households receive 25.83% of national disposable income! Yet this government, a coalition that includes a political party that pretends to be a social democratic ‘labour’ party, has set its face in one direction only – away from the wealth of the few and towards the miserable income of the many. This is a preposterous and indefensible choice for any political party that would claim to be even half-civilised.

Not content with imposing wage and social welfare reductions on the poorest in society, this government has drawn more of them into the tax net, hit them with a new ‘universal social charge’ and raised the cost of public services. On top of that, this rotten government is doing the bidding of that top 10% by again targetting low-paid workers, intending to dismantle Joint Labour Committee rates of remuneration for overtime and weekend work among other things.

In this latest assault, the government is egged on by large sections of the media who provide air-space and page-space to employers’ representative bodies such as the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC), the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) and the Irish Hotels Federation, among others.

This brings us to that second item in the media. The Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, a member of the same Labour Party that has chosen to side with the rich against the poor, has stated that he is against capping the salaries of State broadcaster RTE’s top presenters on the grounds that these people are not staff, but contractors. This tidy little arrangement allows these presenters to negotiate terms and conditions which would seem like Lotto winnings to the poor and the working poor in society.

The last year in which the earnings of the most highly-paid RTE presenters was released was in 2008. Pat Kenny was paid a salary of €950,976, Gerry Ryan received €629,865 with Marian Finucane on €570,000, Ryan Tubridy on €533,333 and Joe Duffy on €408,000. It is likely that each of these presenters is able to call on other earnings to supplement the RTE payments. Those salaries put them into, or very near to, the top 10% of Irish households.

These presenters, between them, occupy some of the most important slots on national radio and television schedules. Between them they wield extraordinary power to dictate and shape the agenda. They are intermediaries between the major players in Ireland’s social, political and economic worlds, and the people. They choose what items are to be covered on their programmes and in what way. They choose, with their producers and editors, whose voices will be heard, what questions will be asked and in what way, and how interviews and discussions will be conducted and often influenced by the intervention of the presenter. They are, by those means, opinion formers. They set the agenda for the day and the tone in which each issue will be presented to the people. They choose to cover certain items and not to cover others. They invite who they want, or don’t invite others. They endorse or dismiss views and opinions.

In effect, what these presenters do, and many of their colleagues throughout the rest of the broadcasting and print media do too, is to shape the mindset of the most powerful block of voters, the middle class, to make them compliant enough so that the status quo is not threatened, to the advantage of all of the political class, and the wealthiest in society.

The Minister for Communications could exercise his powers to require RTE to change the way in which it employs its presenters, and do it in the interest of transparently ethical broadcasting to the benefit of the audience who live, they are told, in a democracy. He could force RTE to change from the practice of using ‘contractors’ and let these people either work as staff, with capped salaries, or let them take their chance in the commercial world over which the Minister does not have the same remit.

But the Minister, of course, belongs to the same political class as Pat Kenny and the rest of the ‘contractors’ do, along with the top 10% who take that staggering 25.83% of the country’s disposable income, and the comparatively wealthy 10% below that group – business men and women, lawyers, doctors, engineers, executives, senior media workers, higher academics, and so on.  The Minister has chosen to leave things as they are, just as he and his party have chosen to leave the wealthy as they are and target the most vulnerable instead.

Two news items that show up the travesty of describing this place as a republic. It is not a republic, unless it is a banana republic, not quite the same thing. It is a hegemonic state, a plutarchy, effectively a dictatorship under the control of the political class, engineered to their advantage by manipulating the flow of essential information and controlling the conduct of debate and discussion, all inhibiting reasoned and informed democratic decision-making by the citizens.   It exists and persists only through the process of  ‘manufacturing consent’.

This plutarchy, this dictatorship, represents a tacit conspiracy of common interest by the wealthiest and the most well-connected against the impoverished – the wretched of this land. What is needed to overthrow it is a conspiracy of common interest by all who believe in true democracy and the enlightened and progressive republic.

The tyranny of ‘expert’ opinion

Closing his ‘Tonight’ programme on TV3 on the 24th of May, Vincent Browne made an extraordinary statement, almost revolutionary. He announced that he was looking to move  from the practice of having only ‘expert’ people on the ‘Tonight’ panels and, in the interest of having a democratic balance of views and opinions, asked for recommendations from the general public of suitable people who could contribute to his programme, to be drawn from across the social classes and not exclusively from the professional/business class as is the norm. What an idea!

Browne’s statement is extraordinary not only because what seems on the face of it to be a fair and democratic and correct approach has never been the practice in broadcasting in Ireland, but also because TV3 is a commercial TV station with a mandatory but limited public service broadcasting requirement. What Browne is proposing might more readily be expected to originate in RTE, the ‘national’ broadcaster, with its much more extensive public service broadcasting requirement and a significant proportion of its revenues provided by way of licence fee, paid in the main by the ‘great unwashed’ whose voices are excluded other than in shallow radio phone-in programmes, heavily moderated.

Blinded by ‘experts’, we are led up the garden path, lectured on what is ‘common sense’ and what should be dismissed as ‘looney’. These ‘experts’ are presented to us as people who ‘know’, who have the ‘truth’, whose opinions are not just worth hearing but worth internalising so that they become our opinions.

The ‘experts’ are, we are often informed, eminent or distinguished or foremost in their field. Some may be, but what does that mean? It may be that the lawyer knows a fair bit about contract law, or licencing law, or constitutional law, or criminal law, but not usually all of these legal areas and more. It may be that the surgeon is indeed an expert in neuro-surgery, or cardio-vascular conditions, or plastic-surgery, but not usually all of these and more. It may be that the academic has forged a successful career in the area of sociology, or economics, or science, or literature, but not all of these and more. It may be that the entrepreneur has made a fortune selling cups of coffee, or building houses, or making plastic ‘things’, but what does that show other than an ability to spot a chance, get organised and make some money?

‘Experts’ usually have a very limited area of expertise. They are not all-seeing, all-dancing fonts of wisdom. In fact, the very closed world that they usually inhabit within their particular area of expertise may close off ways of seeing and ways of thinking about a wide range of personal, local, national and global issues about which they are supposed to have opinions that we are led to believe are worth paying attention to. On these radio and TV panels, surgeons, lawyers, academics, politicians and ‘personalities’ will insist that their thoughts on economics, or politics, or the media, or war, or US foreign policy, or the EU policy on immigration, or the banking crisis are so well-informed and well-thought-out as to be suitable for serious consideration by the population at large. What arrant  nonsense!

On the other hand there are those who did not gain a reputation or access to membership of the political class by acquiring a degree or a PhD in a limited field, or by ‘networking’ successfully, but who left formal ‘education’ early and then educated themselves by keeping their eyes and ears and intellects open, by reading and discussing, by being aware of the natural, social and political worlds, by dissecting and assimilating ideas.

One such man was my father. Having left school at 13 through economic necessity, like so many others had to, he became a sheet metal worker, then a panel beater and later a garage owner. An inveterate reader, he was also a very fine writer, good enough to be offered a position as a correspondent in the 1960s by the Evening Press newspaper. He had a superb knowledge of history – Irish, European and World, and of current affairs, again spanning the globe. His analyses of various issues and their likely outcomes including Ireland’s membership of the EEC/EU, the conflict in the Six Counties, US foreign policy especially in the Middle East, and the economic rise of the East and of South America have been, or are being, borne out. He had an intimate knowledge of the natural world, from the sky at night to the earth below. Long before it was fashionable he was an environmentalist, and again before it was fashionable went against type by championing the cause of indigenous people from the Native Americans to the Australian Aborigines, and all points between.

So highly regarded were his views and opinions that on Saturdays at his garage in Dublin he would be visited by a stream of regular customers, including many  regarded as eminent in their professions, there not just to get petrol in their cars but to hear his views and to exchange ideas. One of the highest-ranking solicitors in the land would spend up to an hour every Saturday talking with him, and listening. But Pearse Stokes would not qualify for inclusion on any RTE discussion panel – then or now.

That is why Vincent Browne is not only right but intelligent in his new approach to the formation of panels for his ‘Tonight’ programme. At a moment in our history that we would prefer not to have visited – brought here by the ineptitude and stupidity and greed of so many in the political class, including some of the media ‘darlings’ – it is time to open out to a wider range of views and opinions by listening to articulate and intelligent and well-informed contributors from previously excluded social class groups.

By adopting this new approach, Vincent Browne and TV3 will enhance the Public Sphere, that area in social life in which public opinion is formed. It should make for more interesting television too – an escape from the incestuous ‘same old, same old’ discussion panels.

And what will it do to RTE – the broadcasting arm of the State and of the political class? Let’s hope it will give them cause for concern. They have had it their own way for far too long, at our expence. Come on Vincent Browne and TV3, show the Donnybrook set how proper current affairs broadcasting should be done – and  can be done.

Constitutional reform must be citizen-driven

It may seem churlish to argue against initiatives which claim to seek a greater  involvement by citizens in the affairs of the State, or, in the case of the Labour Party to engage citizens with the process of constitutional reform. But let’s be churlish – with good reason.

Both of these initiatives come out of the political class – a class which has shown scant regard for the notion of equality of citizenship since the foundation of the State, preferring to champion a ‘plutarchy’, a combination of rule by the wealthy and by a special ‘elite’ – a small number of ‘expert’ and/or ’eminent’ people. The outcome of their endeavours to date has been the creation of a hegemonic State in which the desires of the few have precedence over the needs of the many.

Both initiatives have, on the surface, the appearance of offering a semi-revolutionary outcome. The ‘We the Citizens’ initiative, funded by Atlantic Philanthropies, wishes to ‘renew democracy’ and ‘restore trust in  public life’ by creating a ‘national citizens assembly’ to meet in Dublin in June. 150 participants will be selected randomly from a poll of over 1000 people on the electoral register and will, according to the organisers, ‘consider proposals on making the political institutions of the State better suited to serving citizens’. Grand! We can all applaud that effort. Well not all – some may remain churlish, again with good reason.

Who are the organisers of this seemingly fine initiative, ‘We the Citizens’? They are, almost every one of them, members of the same political class that has overseen the maintenance of the very plutarchy that has destroyed real democracy in this so-called ‘Republic’ of Ireland. Apart from Fiach MacConghail, Director/CEO of the Abbey Theatre, almost every other person listed on their publicity material is a senior academic in Irish or US universities. Some, like UCD Professor Brigid Laffan, are ardent advocates of the EU and of Ireland’s integration into it, some might say to the point of madness. Others, like Intel’s Head of Corporate Affairs Brendan Cannon come as advocates of corporate globalisation and capitalism, not seen as forces that promote human equality or true democracy.

The initiative is supported by yet more university academics including those who run the website politicalreform.ie. On the evidence to date there is no reason to suspect that the Trinity College school of politics which seems the driving force behind that website has any interest in genuinely radical reform of the State which, to be genuinely radical requires the destruction of the hegemony which sustains inequality, privilege and injustice.

Many of these arguments can be made against the Labour Party’s fig-leaf of ‘constitutional reform’. What the Labour Party proposes is a constitutional convention which would draw together ‘all strands of Irish society’ with a mandate to ‘review the constitution and draft a reformed one within a year’. Note – reform, not replace. The current 1937 Constitution is the basis on which inequality and injustice and privilege are founded.

And what of Labour’s notion of ‘all strands of society’. Not quite what it says on the tin. The 90 members would include 30 members of the Oireachtas – yes, the very same dysfunctional and corrupted Oireachtas that is destroying our integrity as a sovereign nation, again all members of the political class. Then there would be ’30 members [who] would be academic or practicing lawyers and others with experience or expertise from non-governmental associations and organisations’, again all members of the political class. Bringing up the rear-guard would be ’30 ordinary citizens’, outnumbered at least 2 to 1 by the political class members.

Even if both initiatives brought to their endeavours strong citizens who could stand up for themselves and their fellow citizens the likelihood is that the agenda of both initiatives will have been consciously or unconsciously skewed before a word is spoken. And when it comes to ‘expert’ advice to the citizens in advance of their deliberations, who will deliver that advice? Why, the self-same political class that has overseen the anti-republican direction that this corrupt, hegemonic State has taken, and who now propose to manage its reform!

What is the intended outcome of either of these initiatives? It is to create a ‘new’ republic, or even a ‘second republic’. What the real outcome will be is best summed up by an Irish saying “cur síoda ar an gabhar, is gabhar i gconaí é”, or “put silk on a goat, it’s still a goat”.

What no-one wants to mention is the only republic we have had – the republic laid out in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic of April 24th 1916 and which stood until the Treaty and the counter-revolution which followed immediately. It is, to the Irish political class, the leper that needs to be sheeted, the vampire that needs a stake in its heart, the mad uncle who needs to be locked away. They despise it for its purity and its practicality. They have contempt for its vision of a better future for all. They reject its concrete universal principles of freedom, equality and justice.

There is a real need for an alternative to these spurious pretenses at initiating ‘reform’. That alternative demands a truly democratic convention that does not privilege members of the political class, or any social class. It requires the engagement of citizens – ordinary citizens – to the task of getting the work underway. The process of creating real, meaningful and revolutionary change needs volunteer citizens – as was the case 100 years ago when all appeared lost, but was redeemed.

Minds must meet to start the process. The time was never more right. This volunteer stands ready. Who else will come to the task?

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