Monday, March 14, 2011

Business and Politics

I am sick to my back teeth of the constant calls from so many people for politicians to come from a "business" background. We heard it endlessly throughout the general election and I have just heard it again on RTE Radio, in relation to the Presidency, from some guy called Johnny Fallon. Apart from the fact that business people, in the main, wrecked the country, we need people in politics who have broad vision and can understand and represent all aspects of Irish society, not merely the economic and financial ones.

Politics is not simply about management and administration of a country (that's what the Civil and Public Service do, under political direction); it is about setting policy direction, based on political vision and values, and putting in place laws, policies, strategies and plans to achieve them. Politicians should be from the people and of the people; that means they should be farmers, dentists, plumbers, auctioneers, lawyers, academics, housewives, unemployed, journalists, economists, drunks, gays and - yes - teachers. In other words, they should be just like the rest of us. I don't want an elite running the country, I want politicians who come from the people and serve at their will. The last election, more than any in recent years, gave us such a group of men and women.

Ireland is at a crossroads now and the choices we make  - and not just the economic choices -  will determine how the country prospers over the next decade or more. These choices must be based on our values as a society of people - what we believe in; what we stand for; how we express and assert ourselves in the world; how we interact in international affairs; how we value and protect the weak and vulnerable in our society. It was our loss of direction, vision and values - driven largely by our brief love affair with money, shares and property (the "business" stuff) - that landed us where we are now. We don't need more "business" people, who so recently and so catastrophically failed our country - to run our affairs. I prefer the man or woman from my own community - not from a "business" elite - to do the job.

And how, exactly, do you really define a "business" person in Ireland? There is hardly a business that has not got a grant, a subsidy, a tax break or some other type of handout from the state - corporate welfare, as Joe Higgins might call it.

So get real, folks, and appreciate what our democracy is and just how fragile it can be. Fight to protect it whenever you hear calls for an elite to take over our affairs. For there lies the path to the destruction of our country and of our society and the end of a future for our children in the country of their birth.

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