Fintan O’Toole: Falling for the myth that the people are to blame


Fintan O’Toole is, as always; spot on in his damning critique of how things are done in Ireland, of how our political system is incompetent and totally incapable of reforming itself.

Surprisingly, however, Mr. O’Toole is now blaming the electorate for this failure.

Until we as voters elect politicians with enough self-respect, and enough respect for us, to demand the right to do the job we pay them for…

This tendency to blame ordinary people for political incompetence and corruption is common among the media – it is also false.

For over thirty years Irish voters have been desperately struggling to bring about political change. In election after election they have clearly indicated that they want a political system that puts the country first.

Here’s a section of an open letter I wrote last March to Green Party leader Eamon Ryan on the issue.

A brief look at recent political history over the last three decades proves the point.

The people trusted the Progressive Democrats (PDs) because they promised accountability and reform in response to corruption within Fianna Fail

Ultimately, the PDs betrayed the people when they abandoned their integrity and principles in exchange for power and influence.

The people rejected the PDs for their betrayal.

Dick Spring gained the trust of the people in the run up to the 1992 election on the basis that he would deal with what he called the cancer of political corruption that was doing so much damage to Ireland and its people.

He immediately betrayed that trust when he went into coalition with the very cancer (Fianna Fail and the criminal politician Haughey) he had just condemned.

The people rejected Dick Spring for his betrayal.

In opposition, the Green Party gained the trust of the people by promising to reform politics, to challenge corruption.

Once in power however, the party abandoned the responsibilities of power/government and instead focused entirely on getting its own green agenda enacted. The party looked the other way as political corruption continued to wreak havoc on the lives of Irish citizens.

Here’s John Gormley in response to political corruption:

We’re not the moral watchdog of any political party…we look after our probity and our standards…we cannot be responsible for events that took place before our entry into government.

The people rejected the Green Party for its betrayal.

The Labour Party (again) and Fine Gael gained the trust, of a by now desperate people, in the run up to the 2011 election by promising to take immediate action to counter political corruption, by promising to urgently introduce the political reform the people have been desperately seeking for more than thirty years.

But once again the body politic betrayed the people.

The people will reject this government for its betrayal.

But, on this occasion, there is a difference in the people’s response.

They have finally rejected the system itself that has betrayed them. Our country is now in a transition period that will ultimately see the end of the old regime and the beginning of a new type of politics.

Recent polls have clearly demonstrated that the people have lost all faith in the political system as currently constituted. This fact is most clearly seen in the form of hundreds of thousands of citizens on the streets in protest against oppressive taxes.

These people are not on the streets primarily to protest against taxes, they are, effectively, in rebellion against the political/administrative system that has betrayed them for decades.

Your comment that the people must re-engage with politics is symptomatic of a political mindset that is in the process of passing into history. I would invite you to wake up and look around you.

A significant percentage of the people are in open rebellion against the political system that you represent, they have taken to the streets in rebellion, they have begun voting in their droves for Sinn Fein and independents for just one principal reason – they no longer trust you, your party or the political system that you represent.

Not since 1916 have the Irish people been so politically energised, not since 1916 have the people been so radically politicised, not since 1916 has the ruling power been so blind to what’s been happening on the streets and in the minds of the people.

Not since 1916 has the governing power been so disengaged from politics and the people.

Sadly, it has to be said, this disengagement from the true mood of the Irish people is also prevalent throughout the media.

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Fintan O’Toole