An interesting and passionate opinion piece in the Irish Times today by Theo Dorgan arguing that representative democracy is simply not functioning as it should, at present. An argument that chimes Fintan O’Toole’s assertion in Ship of Fools, that Ireland is still not a mature democracy.
“This democracy of ours is breaking down, on a scale and in a manner that we have not seen before now, principally because there is now a profound contradiction between what we expect of government, and what government thinks it is there for. In my view, the Government now thinks its sole duty is to manage the State as if it were its own property. […]
However imperfect and in constant need of adjustment it may be, representative democracy seems the sanest and fairest practical way to regulate the complex business of the modern State. For representative democracy to work, there must be a complex relationship of trust between the ruled and the rulers.
If I am to be ruled, if I am to consent to be ruled, then I must grant government considerable latitude in its decision-making processes provided only and always that government acts honourably, scrupulously, fairly and attentively in the discharge of its business.
It has become terrifyingly clear that this Government is really, truly not listening to us. All criticism is dismissed, jibed at, spun out of meaning – as if we are not really there.
A licence to govern is not carte blanche to do as you please between regrettably necessary elections, to behave wilfully, even stupidly, between polling days, with a mental resolve to gloss over mistakes (and worse) in your pre-election literature in the hope of being returned to the merry-go-round. Government is a process, an ongoing process whose driving force, so to speak, is the constant renewal of mutual trust. […]
If we are to survive the present crisis we will need a government prepared to feel shame when it lets us down, prepared to put the national good before party or sectional interest, prepared to listen to, learn from and act upon the collective, unbiased intelligence, including the moral intelligence, of its own people.”
It’s an interesting piece. It’ll probably won’t be “dismissed, jibed at, spun out of meaning” as he fears, but rather the more usual strategy adopted – it’ll be ignored. Perhaps the most interesting thing in the Irish case, is that despite many people being unhappy with how the country is being governed, there is very little explicit, well organised protest or calls for political reform. We are a long way from pots and pans being used to bring down a government, as in Iceland. It seems we have little appetite for a ‘mature democracy’.