21 January 2019 by Antaine De Brún

Democracy is defined as a system of government by the whole population of a country through elected representatives.

On 21 January 1919, the First Dáil was convened in Dublin.  The members of the Dáil asserted the Irish people’s right to self determination in an independent nation.  Those present could have established a presence in the British Parliament, however, a decision was made to work towards the establishment of an Irish Republic.  There was a democratic mandate for the government of Ireland which was subsequently sabotaged by Lloyd George and his government in 1921 with the threat of “immediate and terrible war.”

Pankaj Mishra, the Indian essayist and novelist, writing in the New York Times (17 January 2019) stated:

“…It is actually more accurate, for those invoking British history, to say that partition — the British Empire’s ruinous exit strategy — has come home. In a grotesque irony, borders imposed in 1921 on Ireland, England’s first colony, have proved to be the biggest stumbling block for the English Brexiteers chasing imperial virility…It is a measure of English Brexiteers’ political acumen that they were initially oblivious to the volatile Irish question and contemptuous of the Scottish one.”

In 2019 there is a democratic deficit in six of the counties in Ireland.  Political institutions in the state have failed given the lack of accountability and the inadequate participation of citizens in policy making.  Contemporary political narratives serve to mask political and economic stagnation and the implications of austerity policies.

Policies concocted by unelected advisers are no substitute for democratic politics.  Machiavellian policies developed by state sponsored, secretive, advisers now gather dust around the decomposing body politic while soup kitchens and food banks attempt to respond to the needs of the hungry and the homeless. 

It is said, Nero fiddled as Rome burned.  Not only did Nero play music as people suffered, he was also an ineffectual leader. There are many contemporary burning issues, which attract priority and scarce resources on an annual basis.  Less priority, however, is given to the issues of poverty, deprivation, hospital waiting lists and education budgets.  Child care costs are spiralling out of control and the number of deaths attributed to suicide in the north of Ireland remain a source of concern.

Political patronage and the vested interests of the few were the toxins that resulted in the demise of political institutions in January 2017.  A paradigm shift is required in order to create agreed political institutions.  Myth and demagoguery help create and sustain political crises.  Robust and sustainable political institutions can, however, be established based on research, evidence, rational discussion and professional standards.  Ireland can and should become a country that has a welcome for protestants, catholics, dissenters, people of all faiths and none.

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