Ireland’s Claim to be Democratic is Dubious
First, let’s define democracy
There’s a regular complaint from the Constitutionalists in the United States that their country isn’t a Democracy, but a Republic. My reader should keep in mind that I may use the words “democracy” and “Democracy”, with the latter big-D Democracy being the rulership of the “demos” (Greek for population or public). Most forms of government practice at least a little bit of democracy, while not being Democracies. A modern example of a Democracy is the movement called “Direct Democracy”, demanding that every citizen be given the right to directly vote on most or every issue in their country and locality.
The idea of Direct Democracy, or just simply Democracy, made sense in the times of Ancient Greece when things were relatively simpler, with the tougher questions being: how high should the taxes be, should we go to war with our neighbour, and should we force-feed this guy hemlock. The development of faster modes of transport, instantaneous communication, and industrial machines have complicated our lives, making Democracy a stupid idea. Proponents of Direct Democracy want you sitting at your computer or on your phone for an hour every day, saying Yes or No to hundreds of proposals submitted by every Tom, Dick, and Harry, not considering the fact we have lives to live. So we have developed Representative Democracy, where we choose one or more people to go to the Capital to vote on laws and government actions that align with our interest.
Second, let’s define the Republic
A Republic is democratic, but it’s not a Democracy – it’s a Representative Democracy. In the case of Ireland; we elect Teachta Dálaí (TDs, Irish for “Assembly Delegates”) to either form a government in the Dáil or stand in opposition to that government; our University graduates and labour unions vote for Seanadóirí (Irish for Senators); and we directly elect the President. In theory, these three houses are formed in different ways and have different roles to disperse the power of the state amoung as many people as possible to prevent tyranny – everything the state does has to be agreed upon by each of these three houses. The power of the state is further dispersed by the independence of the Judiciary (the courts) and unofficially by the press (newspapers, radio and TV news), and these two powers are almost wholly independent of the state.
Oh wait, let’s define the state
A state is an area of land which is under somebody’s authority – a tribal chief, a Monarch, a dictator, a ruling party (like in Communism), or “the people” (democracy). THE Irish state itself is the container that holds the Dáil; the Seanad; the House of the President; the Judiciary; and this pesky little thing (we’ll discuss later), the Civil Service. People often call the state the government, because not so long ago they were the exact same thing – the King (or Queen) who had absolute control.
Imagine the state as a grand and sturdy ship navigating the seas of governance. This ship has a solid hull, unchanging and ever-present, representing the permanent framework and institutions that keep the nation afloat. This is the Civil Service, an essential part of the state that provides stability and continuity. Now, the government is like the crew of this ship. It changes from time to time as new leaders come aboard and old ones disembark. The crew operates the ship, makes decisions on its course, and manages day-to-day operations. The current crew (government) are responsible for the ship’s (state’s) safety and repairs, often adding more things to it to increase it’s durability and usefulness…. and this is such a dog shit analogy, but it’s better than nothing.
Fun Fact: Pirate ships were democracies!
Is Ireland democratic?
Now that we’ve defined our terms, we know that we are supposed to live in a Representative Democratic Republic, given to us by our forefathers who directly experienced the brutal direct rule of a human sovereign and remembered the historical legacy of our pre-colonial culture, which embraced equality before the law and democratic values. To avoid the rise of authoritarianism, they followed in the footsteps of many other nations and separated the powers…. and now look at the f*cking place.
Regular Elections and Recall: Being able to elect representatives and then recall them if we’re unhappy with them is the bare bones basics of a democratic system, and the only place that is close to existing is in the local Councils. Elections are REGULAR, happening every 5 years, so it’s not such a big deal that we can’t recall Councillors. Depending on the size of the constituency they serve, Mayors/Chairs merely exist to keep order in Council meetings. If Ireland was governed by its local Councils, I’d be happy to say we live in a democracy.
Things, however, get hairy on the national level. Constitutionally, we were to have elections every 7 years, but that has since been reduced to 5 years. The President holds a similar power to the Monarch in Britain, he or she can dissolve the Dáil if a government can’t be formed, it becomes dysfunctional, or the Taoiseach (Chief of the Dáil) formally requests the President to do so. In lieu of the ciitizenry’s ability to recall TDs, this seems like a good thing for democracy, but it’s precisely a terrible thing. Irish Dáils typically last 3-4 years, even before the maximum term was changed to 5. This places an extraordinary advantage in the hands of the incumbent majority party or coalition, which always seems to be lead by or completely composed of Fianna Fail or Fine Gael. A government left with the power to decide when to call the next election is utter insanity and puts ideologically-opposed parties and independent candidates at a disadvantage – internal and external events can be taken advantage of to secure re-election.
Multi-Party System: We’re supposed to believe that because we’re not ruled by the Communist Party in a totalitarian state that our democracy is functioning. The United States being dominated by the Republicans and Democrats seems to have been inspiration for our own state since its founding as, like I hinted above, there hasn’t been a single government without the presence of Fianna Fail or Fine Gael, and they’ve only become more entrenched as the years have ticked by. Many citizens have taken to satirise and highlight this scenario by referring to them as FFFG. I challenge any living being on this blessed isle to provide ANY meaningful difference in terms of outlook, ideology, or competency. It seems they’d rather bicker over whether the Central Bank should raise interest rates to 1.25% or really cut loose by going as high as 1.27%, all while the country rots on every conceivable level.
The British inflicted a curse upon this island many generations ago – their language. Fooled as we are by the fact that it’s the most widely-spoken international language (second to Spanish!), we forgot that we belong to a continent of people who speak about 200 different languages and who manage to understand each other pretty well, while we ourselves understand none of them! We’re hopelessly trapped in a bubble called the Anglosphere, which accounts for the fact that our culture is largely American/British and we think it’s completely normal to be ruled by two identical parties. Sure, we have a smattering of outlier parties, but they have nothing to offer the Irish people outside of “I promise if we get into government one day we won’t be like those other guys”, but none of this is normal! Look at mainland Europe someday. Their countries have multiple parties who struggle for power year after year and – get this for an earth-shattering revelation – most of them actually believe in things!
Separation of Powers: Once in a while I get the itch to become a South American dictator and I boot up Tropico 6. By time the Cold War era rolls by, I have to make the Constitutional decision on the Separation of Powers, and I always go for “Official Separation.” I’m too much of a bleeding heart to choose “No Separation,” and if I choose “True Separation” I don’t get to do cool stuff like order the arrest, institutionalisation, or murder of my own citizens. I can handle the occasional elections – all it takes is building a few homes, a few entertainment venues, maybe a tax cut, and if that doesn’t get me over the line I can just have the ballot boxes stuffed! Honestly, as long as the export revenues keep rolling in, it’s pretty easy to fool my citizenry into thinking they have a choice. Sure, I win every election, but nobody actually cares as long as THEY have what they need.
Jokes aside, I’ve already pointed toward a dangerous flaw in our Constitution that allows the legislative branch to work with the executive toward a shared goal, namely, making elections as comfortable as possible for FFFG, but we also have the glaring breach of the separations of power and public trust – the “Statutory Instruments” magically enacted into law from the desk of the Minister of Health during the COVID crisis. These SI’s inexplicably circumvented the 3 houses of our government and ended up in the hands of the Police, Judiciary, and Civil Service, who obeyed it without question nor concern for the proper order of the democratic process. Some might tell you that this special power was invoked (through a flimsy interpretation of the Constitution) because they may not be passed, but surely these were the most well-thought-out and liberty-loving pieces of legislation ever written in a time of crisis which nobody could find fault with! After all, the President has NEVER refused to sign any legislation dropped on his/her desk in the history of the state. What’s the problem here!? Could the problem be that the curtailing of individual rights and the suspension of humane treatment of Human Beings should rightly take a couple of weeks to be analysed, criticised and debated? Could the problem be that the agenda was to completely catch the citizenry in a moment of intense fear and helplessness, under which spell they would gladly oppress themselves and each other?
Nah, never mind. I smoked way too weed before I wrote the above paragraph. D’ems all conspiracy theories.
One power that has definitely been abused by recent successive governments is the most holiest of Powers of them all – the will of the people.
The Citizens Assembly, an initiative launched in 2011, has since evolved into a puppet policy/Referendum-proposing body. Several of these assemblies have been organised by the government and Non-Governmental Organisations (funded by the government) and are responsible for a raft of bullshit policies nobody wanted and upcoming Referenda to tackle articles of the Constitution that nobody cares about nor needs to care about. The members of these assemblies normally number in about 100 people, and if you believe these people were carefully and randomly picked from the wider population, I have a Children’s Hospital in Dublin to sell you. I’ve met and heard of more people who’ve survived the bubonic plague than participants of these “Citizens’ Assemblies.” Our government often publishes questionaires for the citizenry or asks them to submit their feedback about proposed legislation, and they SWEAR on their grannies graves that they advertise them on social media platforms. These government webpages are left up for maybe 2 or 3 months – there are no direct links to these pages from the site’s homepage menu and, on occasion, citizens have reported these pages as broken. SOMEONE is finding these pages and likely they’re passed around to trusted groups of people (activist groups and NGOs who already agree on the issue in question) and/or those social media adverts the government promised they bought were granularly targeted toward people who express the views the government is looking for (online business owners know how scarily precise you can target adverts on platforms like Facebook and Twitter – age group, sex, location, interests, and even RECENT BEREAVEMENT).
Like I said, if you think these Citizens Assembles and public consultations are organic and representative, I have a €1 Million printer to sell you (they couldn’t fit it in the door of Leinster House and are looking to shift it).
The Judiciary: It’s hard to imagine there’s been a single day in the history of the Republic when there hasn’t been a scandal of criminal proportions which, at best, result in Tribunal after Tribunal, that ultimately result in nothing or the severe punishment of bystanders as scapegoats. It’s gotten so ubiquitous that I think the justice system has given up prosecuting politicians and civil servants, and even more scarily, politicians have given up hiding their crimes. Let me ask the Leo Varadkar fans out there – all three of you – how many scandals can a politician be involved in before he’s no longer allowed to be Taoiseach or in a cabinet? At this point I’m sure we could submit him for a place in The Guinnes Book of Records. To steal/homage a Dylan Moran joke about another contemporary politician, “he’s so fucking crooked, he sleeps on a spiral staircase!” This man’s so bent, he’d make a Saudi Prince blush.
But seriously. Why aren’t any of these cunts in prison? Why haven’t they even been slapped on the wrist after a good thrashing in court like the rest of us? A few weeks ago I read of a trainee doctor in his mid-20s who got caught taking cocaine at a festival – he got let off by the judge ENTIRELY. Not even a non-official “Probation Act.” I ran for the Dáil last election, didn’t know I had to submit an EMPTY ‘Donations Statement’ form, and even I got the “Probation Act”! I’m the Marked of Cane now, condemned to prison if I ever as-much-as spit my chewingum out on the street, and this cunt walks free!
One other non-negotiable pillar of a democratic society is equality under the law. I’m no idiot, I know that true and whole equality under the law is the definiton of Utopia (Greek, “Nowhere”), but when our society ceases to strive toward that impossible goal we are effectively moving backward and we are punishing the least knowledgeable and least wealthy in our community. This doctor got off with a completely clean record because he has promise. He’s dedicating his youth and the rest of his life for the care of others, and rightly so he shouldn’t have his whole future taken away from him… or maybe it should… heck, I don’t know. This is a complex question that requires open discussion and input from the citizens. All I know is, why is our judiciary at war with the lesser classes, callously ripping our lives to shreds because we took one or a few steps wrong? That doctor-to-be took more than a few steps wrong despite the opportunity he was born into. In our fear-driven fight against drugs and violence, we’re condemning a whole section of our society as worthless entities whom we can socially and psychologically obliterate for the crime of being born into a sink estate and getting caught by the authorities. It’s the tyranny of low expectations – we get what we put in.
Maybe you’re not a huge fan of the Greeks and their fancy ideas like Democracy, wide-spread slavery, and togas – I’m not either. What I am a fan of, personally, is honesty and transparency. If you say you’re Communist and you’re starving millions of people, I can respect that. You are what you say you are. If you’re a dictator and you’re beheading people, cool. I know where you stand. But if you’re claiming to be a representative of the people in a democratic Republic, and it’s not actually democractic, and you don’t care to tell us the truth, you’re probably the lowest form of life on the planet.