Tuesday, December 14, 2010
A New Type of Politics
This blog is now the Sinn Féin candidate for Louth and East Meath. In the Fairways Hotel last night party activists from across the constituency unanimously and enthusiastically endorsed my candidacy. I thank them for that.
Louth like all the border counties has suffered grievously as a result of partition. The Good Friday Agreement has provided a peaceful and democratic way to unite the Irish people. Sinn Féin is committed to this.
The general election, when it comes, will be the most important in recent decades. There is huge public dissatisfaction and anger at the revelations of corruption within the political system. There is frustration and resentment at the policies of parties whose goal is to bail out the banks, and their developer friends in the golden circle, while handing over sovereignty to the IMF/EU.
This blog believes that citizens are looking for a new kind of politics. A politics they can trust, that empowers and includes them. A politics that sets aside elites, doesn’t pander to the wealthy and seeks to build a new kind of Ireland.
This blog believes there is no more important time; no more relevant time than this for republican politics and core republican values.
Take down the Proclamation. Read it. Carefully. It is about freedom and empowerment of citizens, and equality and inclusivity and sovereignty.
It is about the nation – the whole nation – all 32 counties. It is about nation building.
So, how do we translate all of this into a new type of politics? How do we make genuine republicanism relevant for citizens?
Pearse Doherty spelt it out eloquently and passionately in his budget speech.
It is about defending public services, constructing a new and fairer tax system. About protecting the disabled and disadvantaged, as well as low and middle income earners. It has to be about stimulating the economy and protecting and creating jobs; promoting the interests of our rural communities, including the promotion of the farming community and fishing industry.
There is also a need for a root and branch reform of this discredited political system.
Change is possible. Look at the peace process, imperfect though it is. Much more needs to be done by the Dáil to transcend partition and to have a single island policy focus. Good inclusive relationships need to be continuously fostered with unionists.
The gap between the political classes and the people needs to be removed. Politicians should be public servants. People are citizens.
Citizens have the right to be involved in all matters of public policy. And politicians and other public servants must be accountable to their peers. All of this is an argument for republican systems of government; that is, systems in which the people are sovereign and equal.
Such a society has to be tolerant. Society must reflect and include the entirety of its people, not part of them. Why should gender or sexual orientation be the basis for the exclusion of anyone? Or disability?
Why should race or class or skin colour or creed give one group of human beings the ability to deny other human beings their full rights or entitlements as citizens?
And if citizens have rights, why are they not all-encompassing rights? Should the right to the basics for life not include economic rights as well as political and social This blog believes that all human beings have the right, as a birthright, to be treated equally.
To have the right to a job; to a home; to equal access to a health service that is free at the point of delivery; to equal access to education at all levels for all our children; and to a safe and clean environment.
A rights-based society – a true republic - requires citizens to fulfil their obligations for the common good. It also requires the state to inform all citizens of their rights, and to uphold and defend these rights.
The political system in the 26 counties needs completely overhauled and democratised, and all with an eye to advancing the all-Ireland institutions and structures that will benefit society on this island.
Historically, Ireland is a highly centralised society in its political administration, going back to the days when Britain ran the whole island from Dublin. Dublin has become more dominant still as a result of urbanisation and the shift from rural Ireland to the capital.
This blog believes that the Oireachtas needs radical, root and branch reform, including a reform of the electoral system. Ministers should be more accountable and be paid significantly less; there should be greater decentralisation, including the devolving of real powers to local communities in respect of schools, social care for the elderly and dependent, and improving the physical environment.
Referendums could have a key place in politics, allowing the people themselves to legislate directly.
These are just some thoughts, some ideas of the new type of politics – republican politics – that might shape the future.
And part of this means reaching out to others of a like mind; other progressive members of society who are prepared to build an alliance for a new Ireland and a new type of politics that is free of corruption and characterised by civic virtue and social justice.
In all of this we should be guided by Wolfe Tone’s motto, which remains perennially relevant, to seek to unite politically all patriotic people “under the common name of Irishman”, which of course includes Irishwomen as well.
There will be three elections in 2011. On May 5th – the 30th anniversary of Bobby Sands death – the electorate in the north will vote in local government and Assembly elections. When the Taoiseach eventually calls an election we will vote for a new Dáil. It looks like being an interesting year.