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Column: Ireland needs a new political party and here’s how we do it

Ireland has reached a point where the current political establishment is not serving the interests of the people, argues Martin Critten who intends to form a new party with a Citizens’ Charter.

Martin Critten

WE NEED A new party! It’s the sort of statement you hear at the village pub, one which is immediately rebuffed with the remark: “But sure they’re all the same, just a bunch of gob***** !”

Certainly, nothing quite raises the ire of the ordinary man or woman over a few drinks than the idea of creating yet another tier of self -serving individuals masquerading as everyone’s saviour. But whilst we continue to blot out our fiscal woes with mild substance abuse, the tragic irony is we are the ones that keep on voting them in.

In our consumer led society, one thing is for sure, if you bought a box of soap powder from the supermarket that promised to remove stains but in fact totally ruined your Monday’s wash, then certainly there would be hell to play – and a refund of course. It’s the same with that car you bought under warranty that has an annoying leak from under the dashboard that no one at the garage can cure. We have consumer rights and we shouldn’t be afraid to exercise them wherever we come across injustice.

But the big anomaly remains, when it comes to our relationship with the political scene in Ireland, why is it we give these guys so much latitude to say one thing to get our vote only then to back track on almost every manifesto promise made? Well one very simple analysis would be that for decades we let them off.

So like the belligerent child that was never introduced to the naughty step, of course it would be business as usual for Enda Kenny. But having all had a crash course in world economics of late, we’re realising that the stakes are getting a little too high to be ‘turning a blind eye’. The parish pump politician may well have had a time and a place in improving the road surface outside our door, but the very freedoms we believed we had, in determining our own destiny, are now visibly threatened.

When you consider that the recent referendum collectively saw nearly 70 per cent of the population voting No or not bothering, it is blisteringly obvious something is going very wrong for people not to exercise a basic right of passage for a modern democratic society.

Unlike some of our vocal European counter parts, regrettably we appear to have fallen somewhat back into an echo of an occupied past; ‘well sure, there’s nothing we can do so’. But surely we have moved on since then? Have we matured enough to realise we can and must at times stand up and act in our own interests, and not let politicians or religious leaders take us to a place we don’t particularly want to go?

Whilst these questions remain foremost, and the economic debate rages as to shall we, or shall we not succumb to total federal and fiscal union, what becomes of our basic democratic rights? Do we bequeath those to the European system as well? I hope not, because other people have fought long and hard for those privileges.

‘A new party, devoid of past errors, past corruptions, self-interests and elitisms’

But in exercising them, where indeed can we find an opportunity to do the right thing; since no one party can be genuinely relied upon to receive such trust. If the pitch is so irretrievably queered, then logically the only other avenue is to create a new alternative political movement – a new party, devoid of past errors, past corruptions, self-interests and elitisms.

I can hear the sentiments straight away: “But isn’t that just creating more of the same? Why not go with the independents?” True, having no allegiances, or obligations other than to the people that have elected you, is a valuable principle worth embracing. But in the circus ring which is the Dáil it really is the ‘parties’ that have dominated its structure. One lone voice, may occasionally be heard on national issues during Leaders’ Questions but when the opposition to your argument sits smugly with a huge block vote behind them, you may as well be spiting in the wind.

In contrast, if everyone were to get behind the notion of voting independent at the next election, then maybe we would have a Government of passionate regional ambassadors. But what then? In attempting to cross harmonise say over 100 individual agendas in to a ‘Programme for Government’, how long would that take? Would there be dissention? Maybe you can imagine the rest. In one sense this is where party style politics wins out, in that all the preamble has already been gone through.

I think the real challenge is to devise a new party framework which welcomes and sponsors independent spirit and ingenuity, and offers a platform for free thinking to flourish. That would be a stark contrast to what we have now, which appears to be a bunch of suits attempting to sell us something they and us don’t really believe in.

But moreover the principle question still remains. When the ballot box arrives in the local community centre, what reforms can we put into place to ensure we are never sold a pup, misled, or oversold?

In principle in creating a new political party together, we have to ensure this party creates a Citizens’ Charter as it’s first job. That is a series of reforms which creates a new contract with the public, to raise the profile that not just offers best standards in office, which applies to individuals, but also in the manner parties publicly portray and advertise their agendas.

By not creating a new alternative now, we are never going to be guaranteed that this welcomed reform would ever again occur in our life time. By not breathing life into a new, alternative party, the existing establishment will continue to believe they have the playground all to themselves.

Ultimately the decision is ours. But like the last time, do you really want that choice to be so lacklustre that we are destined to be slaves to pan-European parties which have little, or no social conscience as to what’s happening in the fields of Ireland? That’s what is coming down the tracks with the likes of Enda Kenny and Angela Merkel’s cross party co-operations.

Time to shake the barley don’t you think?

Martin Critten is the spokesperson for the new political organisation Sli Nios Fearr which is planning to launch itself this Tuesday, 10 July and intends to register as a full political party in the near future.

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Martin Critten

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