The Grumpy Old Man

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....An "Irish" Democracy ?....

...Do Irish politicians understand what democracy is and how it should work?...

Exactly hundred and fifty years ago Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg address talked about "....government of the people, by the people, for the people". It is interesting to note, that this short description of Democracy can be traced back to a Preface in a version of the Bible believed to be from circa 1384. Some scholars suggest that a very similar version of the saying goes back even further.

But you may ask, what in the world is the grumpy old fart wittering on about this for?

What brought it to my attention is the antics of the elected Irish Parliamentary representatives who, for some five weeks after a lacklustre general election campaign are still arguing about who should form a government. And, Gordon Bennett, it now seems there may not be a new government for a further five weeks! I fully accept that the country is mostly "run" by Civil Servants, but being run by an unelected bureaucracy is most definitely not democracy! (Within this context, Grumpy wonders "what chance the EU and Brexit?")

In very general terms, at the general election, Fianna Gael (outgoing government) polled 31%, Fianna Fail (outgoing opposition) polled 28%, Sinn Fein polled 9% and other minor parties and independents (as many as six different groupings) polled 32%. I accept that it is clear why they are all arguing as to who should form the next government, since none of the two main parties have sufficient seats for an overall majority, even with Sinn Fein. It is also easy to see why the Other Parties and Independents, who by their very nature, display something of a ragtag mixture of colours, persuasions and sometimes extreme policies cannot produce a sufficiently large enough grouping to take any of the main parties significantly over the 50% mark needed to form a stable government.

Since the election, the two main parties have been bickering on what policies they want and what they don't want in order to do business with each other!

So you might ask, where does this fit in with Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address? Grumpy believes the answer to this question is patiently obvious! Let's face it, the electorate (the people) have actually had their say. If one takes a step back, in the words of the Welsh Bard, Dylan Thomas, the electorate have said there is Llareggub (for the uneducated, read it backwards) to choose between the policies of the main parties. It is also clear, that not many really want Sinn Fein to be involved in government. The electorate is sensible enough to see that if one embraces the "Others" then one will still have the same problem in getting any agreement on anything!

As an aside, what is absolutely fascinating about this situation is that there are distinct parallels with the Northern Ireland peace process and the now retired Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) who was heavily involved in brokering a deal between the many parties. It is said that his approach was not to look at what the parties had as differences, but to look at the policy aspirations they had in common. These common policies were "banked". As the discussions progressed through the varying hues of other policies, as the various parts were agreed, they were also "banked". And in this way the discussions slowly progressed to an agreement, certainly not perfect but sufficiently advanced, to allow a workable assembly to be formed.

Surely this approach is not too old for the current members of the two main parties to have totally forgotten about? As mentioned above, the electorate "the people" have spoken and what they have said is that the two main parties should get their heads together and form a government. (With the emphasis on "together") There are bound to be differences although quite frankly the things the popular press claim are being argued about now are, in Grumpy's view, quite trivial.

As an example, the antics of one of the parties regarding water charges (QV www thegrumpyoldman, Money 5) really smacked of the primary school playground. First they insist they want the charges to be scrapped, then "it is not a red line issue for us to enter government". They next say, those who have already paid the water charges (like Grumpy) will not get their money back if water charges and the water company are scrapped. Next we her that the charge will be scrapped but those who have not paid (i.e. broken the law) will not be pursued! Gordon Bennett what a carry on, and what a way to encourage the public to obey and uphold the law. At the end of the day, like them or not and whatever your political, colour or persuasion, water charges, as set up in Ireland, make very sound commonsense by ensuring the money collected for them is actually spent on the water system and not some other harebrained scheme. Gordon Bennett, from various reports one reads on the state of the water system, it needs a shed load of money to be spent on it!

The point of this particular grump is that true democratic countries need and deserve a good, stable government. This government should provide "government of the people, by the people, for the people". In this particular instance, the people have spoken and made it abundantly clear what shape that new government should be. Politicians who have recently canvassed the electorate's support seem to have already forgotten that they are where they are now, because of that electorate. It is high time they take heed of the electorate's view, (expressed by the result of the general election) sit down with each other, cut the flim, flam, fannying around, and form a working government. It is high time they forget their personal bogey men, their personal aspirations of power and self aggrandisement and, for once, do what the people have asked of them.

Finally, Grumpy has heard it said that if the current elected lot are unable to form a government, then they will call the new general election. Gordon Bennett, what an absolute shower of arrogant, self centred idiots these people are! It is high time they got on with the job for which they have been elected. After all, general elections cost money to run, Ireland is a small country and can ill afford to have a general election every five minutes, particularly when even Grumpy can name a good dozen far more worthy projects on which the money could be spent.

So Grumpy's advice to these people is to get your ---- in gear, get a government formed and get on with that for which you were elected!

I can't resist adding a bit that arose through your feedback (see 'forum') in which Brian commented that Belgium had been without a government for 18 months in a stuation similar to that currently pertaining in Ireland. From what Grrumpy reads of the Irish situation, the two main parties, who at the end of the day are the only real option for a coalition, are still playing playground politics with no real sense of urgency. After another week of bickering, and now, they've all gone home for the weekend, saying they might meet on Monday! It does seem, from the press that their view of democracy does differ from Abe Lincoln's in that they see Democracy as 'government of the people, by The Party, for The Party'. Come on Lads, do grow up!