Sunday, June 22, 2008

Democracy and the grip on the Public Megaphone

In the aftermath of the Irish defeat of the Lisbon Treaty ratification proposal in a referendum, it has been suggested that European politicians should respond to citizens' concerns and every other country of the EU27, should emulate Ireland and hold a referendum.

This would be democracy in action, it is argued, but interestingly it is not proposed that the votes be counted as one. If Malta was the only country to reject the Treaty, that would be the end of it. So what the best form of democracy may be, is sometimes what suits a particular agenda or argument.

Should the original Six have sought public approval for the admission of poor Ireland in 1973 and related commitment of German and Dutch taxpayers to supporting us?

If our admission had been approved, how would Ireland have voted on subsequent enlargements from 9 in 1973 to 27 today?

I have said before that it's bizarre that some of us get excited about a "democratic deficit" in Brussels, when our own "messenger boy" political system where the buck stops nowhere, is hardly something to hold up as a great template.

In Ireland, farmers and public sector unions have a firm grip on the public megaphone while the construction industry uses its money power to but influence.

As for the individual, there is always the local TD, who begins a daisy-chain of letters to get a response to what maybe a simple tax query. Government ministers have 120 people supporting this Citizens' Bureau type work but it's the collective power that matters.

As the Irish economy teeters on the brink of a recession, the Oireachtas members will be soon off on a 3-month break. The New Zealand parliament set for about 90 days annually, similar to Ireland's but it is only shuttered for one complete month in the year.

As regards connecting to citizens at a European level, the case of genetically modified (GM) food, illustrates what happens when well-fed but ignorant activists who reject science, are confused with the public interest.

So we have the well-fed in Europe with no understanding of the challenges facing agriculture beyond the rich world and in Ireland, during the Lisbon Treaty campaign, wealthy media commentators led the opposition to the Lisbon Treaty.

So responding to citizen concerns is not easy.

Gallup discovered years ago that income generally determines voter choice. It also is the prism through which people view the world.

In Ireland, people who don't have any exposure to the world of selling tradable goods and services but have comfortable incomes/levels of wealth such as politicians, may not understand the concerns citizens in other sectors of life.

Lisbon Treaty: In Perilous post-Celtic Tiger times, Ireland opts for Impotence in Europe's greatest success of past thousand years

Comment - Lisbon Treaty Aftermath: The case of European politicians confusing concerns of "people" with the anti-science opponents of Genetically Modified (GM) food

Lisbon Treaty: Thousands of Irish private sector workers will face bleak employment prospects in 2009 as No campaign leaders fight for jobs at the heart of Europe - in the European Parliament