Clientelism: The foundation of our corrupt political system

Pat Kenny is an experienced, well informed and articulate current affairs broadcaster.

It was therefore deeply depressing and indeed disturbing to witness his (unwitting) endorsement of our corrupt political system (Frontline, 18th October).

In response to a call from Niall Crowley of Claiming our Future for a more diverse participation in politics Kenny said:

We do have a very intimate relationship with our politicians, not like in Britain where you might not see your local MP from one end of the decade to the next.

Here, we can drop along on a Saturday or Sunday and meet all of our TDs. There is a real connection, whether they’ll do anything about what you say to them is another question, but we can meet them.

We can meet Bertie; we can meet Brian, go into a particular pub in Offaly on a Saturday night and meet Brian Cowen.

Crowley, rightly, responded that that’s not participation, it is clientelism and very dependent.

The brutal truth is that clientelism is the foundation on which our corrupt political system feeds and, in turn, infects every level of Irish society. It is the single biggest reason for the destruction of our country.

Clientelism has nothing to do with democracy, in fact, the practice destroys democracy. Citizens are forced into selling their vote in return for petty favours most of which they are already entitled to in any case.

Politicians, caught up in the corrupt, undemocratic circle, vie with each other in plundering state resources to pay for votes to maintain their power.

The buying and selling of votes/power then moves to other areas of public life. Bankers, businessmen, friends of the most powerful parties all pay their corrupt dues and are rewarded with grants, tax concessions and in very many cases allowed to openly operate outside the law.

To facilitate this widespread corruption and law breaking regulatory authorities are stripped of resources and/or ordered to desist from investigating friends of the powerful.

By destroying democracy clientelism reduces citizens to beggars, destroys national pride and national self esteem and results in a nation of politically ignorant citizens.

If Ireland had evolved into a real democracy the likes of Haughey, Ahern, Burke, Lawlor, Lowry et al would never have survived a single day. Most of them would have served time.

If Ireland had evolved into a real democracy bankers, developers and the many other so called professions would never have had the opportunity to indulge in their corrupt activities in pursuit of vast wealth.

All this activity, all this corruption, all this social and democratic destruction has one single origin – Clientelism.

The fact that somebody as influential as Pat Kenny sees this (corrupt and corrupting) system of clientelism as an integral and laudable part of our system of government is an indication of how far we have to go before the building of a new, and truly democratic, republic can begin.

Copy to:
Pat Kenny

6 thoughts on “Clientelism: The foundation of our corrupt political system”

  1. As uusual, Anthony, you get right to the heart of the matter. Unfortunately the clientist politics we suffer under is deeply ingrained in Irish culture and mentality. I hope you will participate in the ‘Claiming our future’ movement. Due to circumstances and age I cannot be an active participant but wholeheartedly support it otherwise.

  2. Excellent posting as usual. But dont forget he who pays the piper calls the tune – and Kenny is well paid as well as having a vested intrest in the current set-up.
    Clientism is a curse, and a result of an out dated electorial system itself modeled on Britain of the 19th cen.

    Because of the system we have, our TD’s are little more than glorified county councillors with few exceptions.

    It also adds to the nepotistic succession – unto the third generation in some cases – in just over 90 years of independence.

    Because of the way our elections are run, FF and FG are little more than two cheeks of the one arse, and we end up with people like the Healy Raes, Connor Lenehan – his brother and aunty – and the other usual suspects.

    It has led us to a system that has ensured the leader of the Government and the leader of the opposition were both elected following the death of their fathers in by-elections.

    The only way to ensure a start to a democratic, real republic is to change to a list system – to at least allow Res Publica – the people – to choose politicians at a national level on the basis of merit as opposed to accident of birth, a situation Emmet spoke of.

  3. Yes we badly need a (partial or complete) list system. But change requires that the present incumbents act to amend the constitution, and they got where they are today courtesy of the current (defective) system, so self-interest will cause them to drag their feet where any change is concerned. I can’t see a way out….

    This is a real Tragedy of the Commons – as described here:

    And how about this for a general election platform?:

  4. Thank you for the comments and very interesting links M, Revolution is, I believe the only way out. What form of revolution, I’m not sure but very radical change of some form is urgently required

  5. Thank you for the comments Haymoon,

    I have the highest respect for Niall Crowley and his efforts through ‘Claiming our future’ but I fear his campaign may be too little too late.

    I hope I’m wrong and that his brave actions result in the radical change that’s crucial for the country’s future.

    I wish you well in health and circumstance

  6. I agree with you Simon, especially on the list system idea.

    Your discription of FF and FG as two cheeks of the one arse is, hilariously, spot on.

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