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Column: To bring about any change, we must redefine what we expect from our politicians

If we want to reclaim the current political landscape we need to re-establish the ground rules for office holders and ensure their words turn into actions, writes Martin Critten.

Martin Critten

Sli Nios Fearr aims to change our political landscape for the better says spokesperson, Martin Critten. Here he tells us what they are all about. He writes:

WHY DO ELECTED candidates look so happy when tossed in the air? Answer: the retirement package has arrived. Are we always destined to be gullible, knowing Enda Kenny is on €44,000 more than the French President, or is it we’re more than happy to stick with what we know – “perpetual sufferance” as historian Diarmaid Ferriter calls it.

Apparently, polls indicate we could be in for a repeat of the same shenanigans that brought us to our knees. What will cross your mind when casting your vote? Will you trust them, even if they profess to empower the people? Will we ever reach that Ronseal moment, knowing that what we voted for, will do “exactly what it said on the tin”.

A new system

We can be rightly annoyed into thinking initially that a new system is needed, but given the nature of our problems, vengeance and anger alone are never good building blocks to cultivate social policy, advance social protections, or indeed avoid the foreseeable dangers of transposing flawed mantras from other countries.

Because no matter what political systems we feel we should adopt, there is the recognition that the damage we are eager to redress, will always have been done beforehand. And by that token, we are always destined to work on the back heel, unless that is, we focus energy at the heart of our disillusionment.

Wouldn’t it be great, knowing that whoever said it’s “our way or Frankfurt’s way” wasn’t away with the pension, having done nothing to back-up that statement. Or, that “if you want real change” really meant just that. In essence, it’s right here where the disconnect with politics begins.

Words don’t mean anything; duty and obligation are no where on the radar. Pat Rabbit couldn’t have illustrated the quality of our demise better when saying: “sure isn’t that what you do during an election”. Seriously, there is no hope for any democratic tool when faced with that level of spell-binding.

What people want

Emails sent to Sli Nios Fearr say the same thing – accountability, transparency, political will, performance, duty, empathy, ability and that old chestnut ‘value for money’. What all this highlights is, we would have better control over our destiny if we actually enshrined these qualities into the pillars of our political world; a world contained of the people we elect – as opposed to an inanimate system. Someone eloquently said, Ireland has crashed its new car, so do you blame the car, or do you blame the feckless driver who was out to impress the passengers?

Our reforms, or indeed any reform, has to begin right here because what’s said, qualifies everyone’s expectations, establishes boundaries, and forms a relationship, especially with those we elect. Our recently published Citizen’s Charter, crystallises ‘The Seven Principles of Public Office’ which would bring an instant smile to Shane Ross TD, whose recent book  ‘The Untouchables’ illustrates why this kind of platform is so essential.

Yes, we have the SIPO, (scant evidence for Europe of best practice) but this ethical footprint provides ‘lip service’ and falls short on two magic words – accountability and responsibility, especially where decision making is concerned.

Redefining the expectations of our office holders

True ‘principles’ are useless unless backed-up with adequate redress and it’s here we score the points. The redefining of roles and expectations for office holders, formalising electoral conduct, the provision of public appointments; are all aspects contained within the framework of this new Charter; as are the likely penalties which refer to pensions, fines and expulsions for both individuals and parties.

Indeed, to maintain any public credibility, Sli Nios Fearr, had to go in search of a platform which would escape Oireachtas influence and provide substantial oversight. To our surprise, we re-discovered an institution which largely existed as occupied territory, an apparent irrelevance, neutered in De Velera’s day, which is the Seanád.

By creating a directly elected (down sized) Second Chamber, we instantly regain our democratically chosen adjudicator, as we had pre-1936, charged with the oversight of Oireachtas miss-appropriation of duty and obligation. Self regulation by the Oireachtas and Taoiseach, has proven totally inadequate so far, so let’s allow the Second House do what it was originally designed for.

How many times have we heard “if only we had so and so running the country as a business, or a great mind like his to call on”. This would be the general office for such a forum to exist, one which would avoid the costly practice of retrospective referenda, yet maintain daily cognisance, offering a handbrake to stop the ‘car’ from rolling off the cliff.

Citizen’s Charter

The rudiments of this Citizen’s Charter remain steadfast, including the Seanád reform package contained within. The time has certainly come to re-establish ground rules that sponsor trust and confidence in the State instruments, because all this has been lost through culturally sponsored miss-conduct in pursuit of parish fame, greed and national notoriety; and as a consequence, public service has been irrevocably damaged.

It’s hoped that what’s lays ahead is the evolution of a society that matures beyond the simplicities of an Athen’s style democracy. As a Californian said “democracy in itself can be the tyranny of the majority”.  And now it’s a land where liberties have been lost by referenda. So in viewing aspects of life in pure economic terms, we disengage from the people who make up those numbers. Same when using the democracy word, we disengage from protecting society’s minorities, as we think more of what matches our current opinions and beliefs, it’s a very blunt ‘mé féin’ platform.

In contrast, representative democracy endeavours to take a helicopter view of the world, the very essence of creating a broad holistic society. Whilst our ‘vehicle’ has been crashed in abusing its integrity, let’s remember when getting behind the wheel, in regaining balance, to make sure we take on board the right lessons. That is making sure ‘they’ do what’s said on the tin – first.

The Citizen’s Charter is available as a download from the main sli-nios-fearr.com website. To become part of the Si Nios Fearr panel or to  become a party member you can email: martinc@sli-nios-fearr.com.

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Martin Critten

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