When the establishment betrays the people’s trust

By Anthony Sheridan

The political establishment that has [mis]ruled Ireland since independence is on the verge of extinction.

For clarity, here’s a good definition of the term ‘establishment’.

The ruling class or authority group in a society; especially, an entrenched authority dedicated to preserving the status quo.

An establishment’s greatest resource is the people over whom it exercises power.  Its success depends on the people’s willingness to tolerate its behaviour.

When an establishment betrays the people’s trust one of two things will happen.  The ruling elite will attempt to preserve its power by becoming ever more oppressive, even to the point of violence, or the people will bring it down and replace it with a new establishment that will return the balance between rulers and the ruled.

For example, abuse of power and an abject failure to respond to the needs of ordinary people trigged the French revolution in 1789.  The revolution marked the beginning of the end of the divine right of kings to rule and the eventual emergence of the middle class political establishment we see in France today.

In addition to getting rid of corrupt regimes revolutions also serve to enlighten citizens to the fact that it is they, and not the ruling elite, who are the rightful owners of political power. They become aware that power flows from the bottom up, that those at the top exercise power solely on sufferance from the people. This sense of people power is as strong in France today as it was in 1789. 

Unfortunately, the opposite is the case in Ireland. This is because there has never been a political revolution in our country and as a consequence there has never been a change in the mindset that sees power as belonging to the powerful. 

We had a rebellion in 1916 that ultimately persuaded the British establishment, who were distracted by the brutality of WWI, that a degree of independence for Ireland within the Commonwealth was better than more war and rising criticism from the international community.

This resulted in the relatively smooth replacement of an oppressive, self-serving colonial establishment with an equally oppressive, self-serving home-grown version. 

This home-grown establishment immediately set about creating a political regime that ensured the subservient mindset instilled in the population over centuries of colonialism lived on as a powerful means of political manipulation.

They created a system of gombeen clientelism where crumbs were handed out in payment for votes.  Citizens were led to believe that the natural order of power in a democracy was a top down system, where the ruling establishment knew best.  

This is why, unlike functional democracies, Ireland never benefitted from the healthy tension between a Left/Right political system.  There was never any real political opposition in our parliament. We never witnessed political parties seriously competing with each other to promote and implement their own political ideologies for the greater good of the country.

All we got was a political ruling elite, principally made up of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, masquerading as separate political parties. They are, and always have been, one political class with one overriding ambition – to exploit the people and resources of Ireland for their own benefit.  The only competition they engaged in over the decades was in the Tweedledee Tweedledum race for government where the opportunities for self-enrichment are most plentiful.

As the political establishment became weaker in recent years smaller parties such as the Progressive Democrats, Labour and, currently the Greens were recruited to support the ruling political class.

The abandonment of most, if not all, of the ideals and policies of these smaller parties was the price demanded and received in exchange for admission to the exclusive ruling elite club.

The British left-wing journalist, Owen Jones, provides the best definition of this particular type of establishment:

The establishment represents an attempt on behalf of powerful groups to “manage” democracy, to make sure that it does not threaten their own interests.

But the century long manipulation of the people and contempt for democracy by this political regime is rapidly coming to an end.  Irish citizens are beginning to realise that it is they who are the rightful owners of power and not the ruling political establishment.

It is crystal clear from recent elections and polls that the people are rejecting the old regime and are demanding real change in how the country is governed. That this demand for change is being ignored not just by the political centre but also by mainstream media demonstrates just how out of touch the establishment is with this revolutionary redirection in Irish political history.

The consensus among the ruling regime is that housing, health and the economy are the reasons for their continuing loss of power, that if these problems are fixed they will survive – it is a vain hope.

While these problems are obviously of huge concern to the electorate they take second place to the demand for radical political change.  People have come to realise that the old regime must be abolished and replaced with a genuinely democratic system. This change of mindset in the electorate is not a temporary phenomenon, it’s permanent – the old corrupt regime is finished.

The dramatic and historic rise in support for Sinn Fein is the most visible sign of this new emerging political landscape.  But that party should take note.  If it fails to radically overhaul how the state is governed, if it fails to abolish the old establishment and create a genuinely democratic balance between rulers and the ruled then it too will be rejected by the power of the newly enlightened electorate.

Public Services Card: Some still forced to comply

By Anthony Sheridan

Two years ago I qualified for the Free Travel Pass but was denied the entitlement because I refused to accept the legitimacy of the Public Services Card.  The Data Protection Commissioner [DPC] has now ruled on the issue:

The Department does not have a legal basis for processing personal data when it’s in the case of a person who’s seeking to avail of a service with the public sector body other than the department itself.

But…there’s always a ‘but’, the DPC has also ruled that:

The legislation only allows the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to insist on its use for its own services.

They [the ID cards] can continue to be used in the context of availing of free travel or availing of benefits that a person is claiming from the department.

So, not withstanding further clarifications, my current understanding is:

All citizens outside the remit of the Department of Social Welfare now have the option of using the card as identification if they so choose.

Those citizens within the remit of the Department of Social Welfare are not granted the right of choice, they must accept this illegal and very dangerous card if they want to receive their entitlements.

I will not be accepting this card until I am granted the same rights as all other citizens.

Tom Parlon launches new career in comedy

By Anthony Sheridan

Tom Parlon, former politician and Director General of the Construction Industry Federation [CIF] has come out as a comedian. 

It’s not clear if Parlon intends continuing with his job at the CIF but the quality of his comedy sketch on yesterday morning’s Today with Sean O’Rourke would surely indicate that he’s bound for global fame on the comedy circuit.

Basing his sketch on the Government’s open cheque book joke  for contractors to build the National Children’s Hospital Parlon led with one of his oldest but most hilarious jokes.

This is the one about contractors, while struggling to make a few cents profit against all the odds, recklessly risking everything they possess in order to help out the national economy and those seeking to put a roof over their heads.

He continues with some brilliant one liners on why costs continue to rise into the stratosphere.

It’s a busy, busy time for contractors.

There’s been some big accidents in China and elsewhere in the world.

Stuff is scarcer.

Contractors don’t get a penny more than they’re entitled to.

[No, seriously, he did say ‘stuff is scarcer‘.]

And the new comic genius introduced a brand new type of joke – the one worder.

Brexit…snapped Tom and the audience fell about in stitches. 

Before listeners could catch their breath with their laughing he followed up with some great new jokes.

The rising costs of the 2 billion hospital, said the budding comedian, can be compared to someone ordering a gear-change car and, when going to collect it, suddenly says:

Jesus, I want to change my mind and buy an automatic, only to discover that it will cost more.   

And, like all great comedians Parlon roped in a member of the audience to help him make his jokes even funnier.

After telling Sinn Fein health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly that a delay in the delivery of fireboards had added substantially to cost overruns she helpfully asked:

Tom, what percentage of the 1.7 billion overrun is down to the delay in fireboards?

Haven’t a clue… the hilarious Tom responded.

Poor old Sean O’Rourke finally realised he had been set up by his producers.   This wasn’t a serious interview analysing the out of control billions for the National Children’s Hospital. 

 It was the launch pad for Tom Parlon’s new career in comedy.

Listen to the full comedy sketch here, highly recommended.

Copy to:

Tom the comedian

Sean O’Rourke

Gombeen democracy v real democracy

 

 

By Anthony Sheridan

There has been a great deal of arrogant criticism in this country about the manner in which the British political system is dealing with the Brexit crisis.

But comments in a recent speech by the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, highlighted the difference between a real democracy like the UK and a gombeen democracy like ours.

May was responding to those who are calling for a second referendum:

The latest plan is to hold a second referendum. They call it a ‘people’s vote’, but we had the people’s vote and the people chose to leave. A second referendum would be a politician’s vote, politician’s telling people, you got it wrong the first time so try again. Think for a moment what it would do for faith in our democracy if having asked the people of this country to take this decision politicians try to overturn it. Those of us who do respect the result, whichever side of the question we stood on two years ago need to come together now.

May is spot on in describing the idea of a second referendum as a ‘politician’s vote’. In our pretend democracy we’ve had two such ‘politician’s votes’ in recent years when the democratic will of the people wasn’t in line with the interests of the ruling elite so the result was thrown out and the people were forced to ‘try again’.

 

Dan Boyle: Corruption…what corruption?

 

By Anthony Sheridan

I recently engaged in a twitter discussion with former Green Party TD Dan Boyle on the question of politican corruption. Incredibly, and somewhat depressingly, Mr. Boyle does not believe that political corruption is a major problem, he does not believe that political corruption is principally responsible for most of the damage and suffering inflicted on Irish citizens over the decades.

Indeed, despite years of direct political involvement Mr. Boyle claims he has no direct evidence of the disease.

I believe corruption exists but I have no specific evidence of it.

Here’s the verbatim account of our discussion.

 

Dan Boyle:  The significant whataboutery of many in Irish life, reacting negatively to the latest in horror homelessness stories, shows the horrible link that when becoming richer as an economy we seem to become poorer as a society.

Anthony Sheridan: Ah yes, once again it’s the royal ‘we’ that’s to blame. This avoids the brutal truth – the corrupt Centre of Irish politics is responsible

Dan Boyle:  We all exist in a society. You don’t isolate. Nothing ‘royal’ about it. Bigger picture exists despite personal animosity.

Anthony Sheridan:  You do isolate, you identify the guilty (in this case, corrupt politicians) and make them accountable. The ‘we’ generalisation is a cop out.

Dan Boyle:  To you it is. Choose isolation if you want. All it leads to is constant conflict and little, if any, progress.

Anthony Sheridan:  Your reply does not make sense. Focus on the brutal truth – our corrupt politicians are responsible.

Dan Boyle:  Your use of the phrase ‘corrupt politicians’ is meaningless. It’s a convenient catch all phrase that doesn’t forward debate in any way at all.

Anthony Sheridan:  Wow…that’s an incredible comment given the massive suffering, loss and even death as a direct result of political corruption. No wonder the Greens are in the waiting room of extinction.

Dan Boyle:  Of course there are politicians who are corrupt, but most politicians regardless of where they sit on the policy spectrum, are not. Pretending they are, and using politicians as a generic reason for all that is wrong in society, is just plain wrong.

Anthony Sheridan:  It is not just some corrupt politicians, the political system itself is rotten to the core. You are an insider and like all insiders you are blind to the rot all around you. The countless victims of political corruption do not have the luxury of ignoring the brutal reality.

Dan Boyle:  I’m not an insider but I am someone who has had experience of where and how the system falls down. You put this down to corruption, I put it down to competence. Where the system most falls down is where those in charge have no accountability mechanisms.

Anthony Sheridan:  You are an insider, It’s deeply disturbing how unaware establishment politicians are of the true nature of political corruption. I’m confident that in time the rotten system will be brought down and replaced with honest politics. We’ll have to agree to disagree until that day.

Dan Boyle:  I’m not an insider I hold no public office. I believe corruption exists but I have no specific evidence of it. Laws need to be strengthened and greater resources given to help prosecute more. Corruption needs to be eliminated but lack of competence is the real problem.

Anthony Sheridan:  Your admission that you have no specific evidence of corruption defies belief. The disease of corruption is obvious and rampant throughout the political and administrative system. You live in a bubble of denial Mr. Boyle, a fact that does enormous damage to the Irish people.

Dan Boyle:  I speak honestly on the basis of my experience. If specific evidence was made available to me I would have acted on it. If such evidence is available to you, I would encourage you to have it acted on. Most failures in Irish politics are as a result of cock ups not conspiracies.

Anthony Sheridan:  I am genuinely astonished at your apparent ignorance of the rampant corruption within the political/administrative sectors. Clearly, you pay little attention to news and current affairs. Such ignorance is a guarantee that the guilty will continue to thrive.

Dan Boyle:  Again not what I’m saying. Convictions depend on evidence of sufficient quality. Corruption exists. It is notoriously hard to prove. But I’ll repeat lack of competence is the greater cause of maladministration in Irish public services.

Anthony Sheridan:  We’re going around in circles now. Just to finish, it is deeply disturbing and bodes ill for the future of our country if your ignorance and naivety are common [and I suspect that is the case] within the body politic. Thank you for engaging in the discussion.

Dan Boyle:  You can call me ignorant as much as you like. You have no greater information or experience on this than anyone else has. Your shock and scorn is immaterial.

Anthony Sheridan:  It’s not about me, it’s about ridding our country of the disease of political corruption, clearly there’s a long road ahead.

Copy to:

Dan Boyle

 

Citizenship status has been removed from the Irish people

 

 

By Anthony Sheridan

The people of Ireland should know that Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Labour Party have removed the status of citizenship from them and replaced it with the inferior status of ‘customer’.

The process was initiated in 1997 and has been refined and expanded upon ever since. Ministers and civil servants no longer address citizens as citizens but as customers.

For example, during a recent interview on RTEs Today with Sean O’Rourke  [July 2 – 2nd report] the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty referred to old age pensioners as ‘customers’.

Thinking that this may have been a ministerial slip of the tongue I had a look at Ms. Doherty’s department website and found that the status of citizenship had indeed been removed and substituted with the lesser title of ‘customer’ [See below for example].

A quick search across other departments confirmed that this is official policy. Here for example is an extract from the Department of the Taoiseach:

Our Commitment to our Customers

The Department of the Taoiseach is committed to providing a professional, efficient and courteous service to all our customers…We will treat all our customers equally and make every effort to ensure that the services we provide reflect your needs and expectations.

This is a deeply disturbing development as it strikes at the very core of the democratic relationship between citizen and state. It strongly implies that ministers and state officials have taken ownership of the power, wealth and resources of the state. That they, and not the citizenry are – The State.

It implies that [now former] citizens are mere ‘customers’ that must comply with laid down conditions if they wish to ‘do business’ with the new owners of the state.

This quote, taken from the Dept. of Public Expenditure and Reform, makes it crystal clear that it is the department that is the provider of goods and services and the citizen is the customer:

Deliver quality services with courtesy, sensitivity and the minimum delay, fostering a climate of mutual respect between provider and customer.

The development further implies that ministers and civil servants no longer see themselves as (civil/public) servants, elected and employed to serve people and country but rather as wielders of state power over and superior to the power of the people.

I spoke about the issue with a senior official in the Dept. of the Taoiseach who was genuinely surprised that I thought the matter was of any importance.

Here’s why I believe the issue is of crucial importance:

Democracy literally means ‘rule by the people’. Not by politicians or civil servants but by the citizenry. In representative democracies certain elected citizens are temporarily appointed to govern on behalf of the people. They are granted state power by the people to govern on behalf of the people but the possession of that power does not raise their status above that of any other citizen. It does not create a relationship whereby the politician is master and the citizen is a customer.

Similarly, many citizens are employed to serve the State on behalf of the people across a wide range of government departments but no individual civil servant possesses a status or a power above that of any other citizen, they remain servants to the democracy of the people.

This policy of downgrading the sacrosanct status of citizenship by replacing it with the inferior and cheap status of ‘customer’ is obnoxious to the very meaning of democracy.

Customer means:

A person who buys goods or services from a shop or business.

In the world of trade this is a perfectly legitimate definition. An individual becomes a customer when they decide to purchase goods or services from the owner of a business.

In a functional democracy citizens do not purchase goods or services from politicians or state officials operating under the illusion that they own these goods and services. Citizens avail of goods and services that they (the citizens) have provided for the greater good of all the people. It is the function of politicians and officials to serve the people by organising and dispensing these goods and services according to need. They do so as fellow and equal citizens, not as overseers doing business with customers.

Citizenship means:

The status of a person recognised under the custom or law as being a legal member of a sovereign state or belonging to a nation.

It’s unlikely that this removal of the status of citizenship is a deliberate conspiracy to weaken democracy but that is exactly what it will do.  Once a concept is accepted by an authority it quickly becomes the norm.

That’s why the official I spoke to at the Dept. of the Taoiseach was so puzzled by my concerns. She has already accepted those who deal with her department are not citizens but customers and therefore should be dealt with as such.

Similarly with Minister Doherty. She obviously feels totally at ease in referring to citizens as customers. But by so doing she is over-turning the centuries long democratic principle that politicians and state officials are servants to the people and not, as the term ‘customer’ suggests, masters over the citizenry.

But even more crucially the Minister has lost sight of the most important democratic principle of all – that citizens ARE the state and therefore can never be customers to it.

Copy to:

Minister Doherty

Official at Dept. of Taoiseach

All political parties

Media

 

 

From the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection website:

The Department of Social Protection delivers an extensive range of services nationwide, to a wide and diverse group of customers including families, jobseekers, people in employment, people with illnesses and disabilities, carers, older people and employers. These schemes and services are delivered locally through a national network
of Intreo Centres and Branch Offices and from centralised offices countrywide.

 

 

From the Dept. of Public Expenditure and Reform

Foreword by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform

Mr. Brendan Howlin, T.D.

On 17th November, I launched the Government’s Public Service Reform Plan.

This Plan sets out our strategy to radically reform how we deliver public services in the years ahead. One of the key themes of the Plan is placing Customer Service at the core of everything we do. An important commitment in this regard is to continue to drive the Customer Charter initiative in the Public Service, particularly with regard to consultation with customers, identification of service targets and channels, and reporting annually on progress.

The Customer Charter Initiative gives customers a clear and unambiguous statement of the level of service they can expect. It also provides a framework that allows us, as public servants, to measure and improve the quality of services provided and to report on this publicly.

Our interactions with customers, whether this is with the general public or businesses, set the basis for how we are perceived. We all know that Ireland is currently in a challenging position economically, but we must also bear in mind that we have an increasingly complex and diverse customer base with growing customer expectations.

The Customer Charter process allows organisations to engage with their customers to design their services better and to become more flexible and responsive to the needs of services users. While the Charter process has been successful, we must continue to aim higher and to further strengthen and deepen the customer service improvement process. The Customer Charters and Action Plans being prepared for 2012-2014 should build on past successes and learn from previous challenges.

These practical guidelines for Public Service organisations for the preparation of Customer Charters were first published in 2003, and revised in 2008. I am now pleased to introduce the third iteration of these Guidelines, which have been revised and updated in light of the Programme for Government, the Public Service Reform Plan and the evolving nature of service delivery generally. These Guidelines also cover Customer Action Plans, which should be used as the vehicle for achieving the objectives set out in Charters.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Quality Customer Service Officers’ Network, who have been central to the Charter process over the past decade, for their work in the preparation of these Guidelines and for their continuing commitment to the implementation of Quality Customer Service in the Irish Public Service.

Brendan Howlin, T.D.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform

January, 2012

 

Tuam babies: Minister Zappone to opt for cover-up?

 

 

By Anthony Sheridan

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone will shortly make a recommendation to Government on what is to be done about the remains of the hundreds of children dumped in a septic tank in Tuam by the Catholic Church.

She has two choices:

She can recommend a full forensic excavation of the site along with DNA analysis or she can recommend the erection of a memorial to the victims

The first option will mean the State accepting responsibility for its part in the horror and by so doing force the Catholic Church to admit its crimes against humanity. In a sentence, this option will deliver justice and closure to the victims and survivors of the horror.

The second option is to leave the remains where they were discarded, place a memorial over the site and walk away. In a sentence, this option will inflict another injustice on the victims and protect the guilty politicians and clergy from being made accountable.

We don’t have to wait for Minister Zappone’s decision, we already know she will opt for the second option – why?

Because Minister Zappone operates within a corrupt political/administrative system that will instruct her to opt for cover-up rather than justice.

She may, of course, possess the courage to challenge state power and be willing to suffer the personal and career consequences that would inevitably follow.

Unfortunately for the people of Ireland, courage among politicians is as rare as justice for the State’s many victims.

Copy to:

Minister Zappone

 

Disclosures Tribunal: Truth and lies

 

Crossing out Lies and writing Truth on a blackboard.

By Anthony Sheridan

Judge Charleton has made an impressive start to the Disclosures Tribunal. It’s a pity his fine words are meaningless in the context of the sewer of corruption within which it will be carried out.

Here’s the reality behind his fine words:

He wants to find out if the media was used as an instrument for the dissemination of lies. Far from being used, the media were willing conspirators in the lies spread about Maurice McCabe.

The dogs in the street or at least the media dogs that live close to and sometimes off politicians and government officials were more than willing to spread the muck on McCabe.

Judge Charleton warned that there could be consequences for those who lie at the tribunal.

I have no doubt that the judge is genuine in his warning but, again, his words are meaningless. Lying under oath is a long established tradition among the ruling elite in this country. Bertie Ahern lied under oath at the Mahon tribunal with not the slightest fear that he would be investigated never mind actually charged with a crime. The culture of lying created by our corrupt politicians still holds power.

Just last week we witnessed the current Taoiseach lying through his teeth but instead of being thrown out of office in disgrace his mealy-mouthed supporters demanded that he be treated with sympathy and respect.

I’m not quite sure what the Judge meant when he said:

The truth is bitter though it is not shameful.

I believe truth is sometimes bitter but always enlightening, always cleansing. Truth is a vital element in a functional democracy, that’s why it’s such a rarity in Irish politics.

Truth poses the greatest threat to the power of our corrupt political/administrative system. That’s why the State goes to such lengths to suppress the truth, that’s why citizens like Maurice McCabe are attacked by the State when they try to expose the truth.

I wish judge Charleton the best in his attempts to expose the truth but in the end it will be a wasted exercise because the tribunal system was designed by our corrupt politicians with the specific aim of suppressing truth.

Young Irish citizens: Time for revolution

youth-has-never

By Anthony Sheridan

 

Lorraine Courtney is not happy about how the State treats young people.

We are owed a place in society, a voice in politics and the media; jobs created for us; houses built for us and wages that we can live on.

Young people are not apathetic, but we are disaffected. Everyone I talk to has a thousand opinions on the political and economic situation. That’s not apathy. But changing things at a top level seems so unrealistic that we go back to the ground, and it’s impossible to try to change things from there.

So, she lists her entitlements and then states that, really, there’s not much we (young people) can do about the situation.

It’s impossible to try to change things.

Here’s a mad idea.

Do what students/young people have been doing for decades in practically every other Western country when they come up against rotten/corrupt administrations.

Get off your butt. Demand that student unions give up engaging in polite protests against fee hikes and unites to form a radical movement to lead the youth (or even the nation) in a campaign against political corruption.

Come out from your colleges and your parent’s comfortable homes and join the water protesters (made up mostly of children, middle aged and elderly citizens) who have already set the revolution ball rolling.

Then, and only then, will the young and every other citizen get real democracy, accountability and a decent society.

Copy to:

Lorraine Courtney