Posts tagged ‘democracy’


A few more thoughts on the clerical abuse of children in Ireland.

I’m worried that something fundamental has been missed in all the dust from both the Cloyne Report and all the previous reports into clerical abuse in Ireland.  These bishops, who took direction to pervert the course of Irish justice, did so on the orders of the ruling head of a foreign nation. Think about that, they ignored Irish law, the law of the nation they supposedly claim citizenship of.  Surely that is an act tantamount to being treasonous. A direct betrayal of the nation and people of Ireland, at the behest of a foreign power.

That being the case perhaps that, is the route to take with non-pedophile leaders within Ireland’s church. Simply strip them of their  Irish citizenship and expel them back to their master in the Vatican city. After seizing any, and all goods belonging to them personally for redistribution to those who their acts have directly harmed.

In addition why have we not officially rebuked the Vatican? Surely a just response to their interference with the internal affairs of another sovereign nation would be to cut all diplomatic ties for a set period of time.  Then if necessary forcibly remove them and their mouth pieces from all positions of authority in our nations system of education?

As for the pedophile priests themselves and in fact all pedophiles, life sentences, life meaning life.  Pedophilia is not a curable illness, they do not get cured. There are cases in the U.S. of convicted pedophiles who have been chemically castrated, self injecting with testosterone to get around their treatment.  That being so they should on conviction be held indefinitely, in a facility capable of keeping them separated from all children, for the rest of their natural lives.

There are those who would say this is an extreme and cruel punishment, well let me say as an abuse survivor, it is not.  Child abuse is murder.  Plain and simple.  The person that child was, the person they might have been is killed over the course of one abusive act.  They will never again be the same.  The person they become will never feel whole and will never be truly okay ever again.  It is the most heinous act that can be perpetrated upon a child.  Actual murder would be almost kind in comparison, at least their suffering is done, but the abuse survivor never stops hurting.  It will often be the first and the last thing they think of each day.  It will prey on their minds, fill them with fear and dread when they go to any location, where they might conceivably see their abuser.  Often they will never lead fulfilling adult lives, often the most normal and natural parts of life, will have been soured and destroyed for them.  And worse still their families will usually suffer the after effects with them.

Every time there is a new revelation about the clerical sex abuse of young children, there is talk about recompense, but little is done beyond a weakly worded letter to the Vatican.  A letter which the Vatican then promptly ignores.  If Ireland wants to be seen as a truly civilised, modern nation, then surely we should be seen to act to protect our children and where justified avenge those who have been failed in the past.  That is what a mature nation should do, protect the young.  While making it clear to the entire world, and any who would shelter those who abuse our children, that if you harm our youths, we won’t respond with a letter.  Instead we will as one united nation, respond in a legally defined way, that will amount to a complete disaster, brought down upon your representatives who perform or cover up any such act.


General Elections: What comes next?

So after the election is over and done with the drama is finally over.  You’ve cast your vote and watched the results roll in.  Maybe your chosen candidate and party won.  Maybe they didn’t.  But sooner or later two questions are going to hit you.  “Is that it?” and “What comes next?”

Most of the people who even bothered to vote will usually say that nothing much comes next.  After all for many people the only direct involvement that they ever have in politics is to vote.  And in truth for a lot of people that is genuinely where they see the end of it.  After all once the government is in office that’s the end of the common peoples involvement in how their country is run.  Isn’t it?

In my last blog post I mentioned that election day is the second most important day to be a good, interested and most of all involved citizen.  Which leaves the unanswered but obvious question “What is the most important day?”  The answer is that the most important day to be involved is every other day of your governments term of office.

On election day and perhaps even during the full election cycle your country may essentially have no government.  Most will have a caretaker government of some kind in place. But they will be caretakers with no mandate from the people to exercise much in the way of power.  On that day you go to the polls to choose the next government.  But you are giving people who at that moment in time have no power your voice.  After election day when they walk through the corridors of power be it Dail Eireann, the Senate buildings or the Houses of Parliament those people will be speaking with your voice.  They will speak on your behalf and make decisions based on the mandate to rule which you have gifted them with.

Those newly elected people whether they acknowledge it or not then have a duty of care to all the people of their nation.  But it is up to the common people of that nation to keep their government honest.  Too many people walk away from voting with an almost smug  self satisfaction that they have done their civic duty.  Completely missing the point that voting should be nothing more than the very beginning of fulfilling that duty.  Once you put someone in power you have a moral duty to yourself, your family, your friends and your fellow citizens to confront them at ever turn and in fact to seek out opportunities to confront them.  The nation and the individual citizens who make it up  should quiz them at every turn on what they’ve achieved or failed to achieve so far in their term of office.  Clear answers must be demanded of them on why they may have reneged on election promises.  Your rulers should be forced to be honest in their dealings with the people whose welfare they’ve voluntarily to taken responsibility for.

It is all too often heard on news and current affairs programs that some government body or other hadn’t enough oversight ensuring it did what it was originally intended for.  Unfortunately those reports are all to often true. A prime example of this in Irish politics is the controversy caused by expenditure of public money by FÁS over the past few years.  These reports are often proven true because ordinary citizens don’t demand the information and the answers that they are entitled to before the molehill is injected with steroids.  The freedom of information acts which are in place in most democratic nations exist in part for this very reason.  So that the ordinary citizens of a nation may be a significant part of their own nations oversight.

Never forget that the vast majority of politicians do not start out as self-centered, grasping creatures.  But power or even proximity to power can and does corrupt.  Worse still corruption is contagious and it takes a strong statesman to maintain his or her immunity to this corruption.

As citizens of whatever nation we are responsible for demanding the best from our leaders.  Not a few of us, not just the academics or the more ethical lobby groups, but all of us.  We each have a part to play in making sure that our politics represents the will of the people and not the will of the vested interests.  The part we play is representative of our individual natures and gifts.  Whether that part is to go over a small segment of the nations laws  to help weed out inequalities or just confronting a politician in the street and calling them out when they’ve decided they can get away with playing silly buggers.  We all can play a part in helping ensure our leaders hold the course that will be best for us all.

Best of all this direct action in the day-to-day political sphere can be a huge help in maintaining the stability of a nation.  Simply put a citizenry who have a genuine and appreciable effect on policies are going to be more supportive of their government.  A better supported government can make better decisions or at least feel supported in making the best available decisions.  Which pushes a horrific spectre further away from us all.

What spectre?  Civil disobedience or worse still civil war.  By being our own nations oversight.  By makng our politicians constantly aware that we expect them to keep politics honest, honorable and above all else of the people we ensure that the people need never take up arms against their own leaders.  It is rightly said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.  Well it is also the price which must be willingly paid by any populace for good government, honest representation and to have any claim as a nation to true greatness.


General Elections: it’s time, it’s Election Day.

Election day is a special event.  No really it is.  It’s the one day in an election cycle when the people of a democratic country get to overthrow the government in a (hopefully) completely peaceful and legal manner.  Or if their government has proven to be effective in its leadership the people have the opportunity to keep a good situation going.  Well anyway the point is that as the citizen of a democratic republic or constitutional monarchy or union of federated states it is the second most important day to be a good, interested and most of all involved citizen.

What’s the most important day?  Well we’ll get to that in the next post.  Patience, is a virtue.

It is every bit as important to prepare to cast your vote as it is to have prepared for the inevitable arrival of those half remembered canvassers at your front door.  So with that in mind here are some important points of information to bear in mind.

First of all no-one can or should tell you how to cast your vote.  It is after all your vote.  That means that just because your parents both vote for a particular party does not mean that you have to.  It also means that no-one has any right to pressure you into voting one way or another.

Next remember that it is a secret ballot and so you can always do that very traditional thing of voting right-wing while claiming to have voted left-wing or vice versa.  After all who will know?  You will be voting alone.  And that is to me one of the most intrinsically beautiful aspects of modern democracy.  Once every few years you are given the chance to make your voice heard and while what you say is utterly private the result of your say will quite literally be heard across the globe.  No-one can say that politics is completely devoid of a poetic soul.  So anyway back with the plot and the point is your vote is secret, nobody will ever know how you voted.

If you’re voting for the first time ask for help.  Actually if you’re voting for your tenth time ask for help.  Yes I am deadly serious about this.  A simply stupendous number of ballots are spoiled in every election.  For example in the 2004 European Elections in the Cork area (Ireland again, sorry non-Irish folks but I am a proud Irish lass after all) somewhere in the region of 20,000 ballots were spoiled out of 500,000 total.  Many of those spoiled ballots are ruined by first time voters who don’t understand what they’re doing.  But more than a few votes were wasted by people who thought that they knew what they’re doing making a mess of things. There are people at every polling station specifically to help you understand what you are about to do.  Or if you would find it too embarrassing to ask in person how about using the internet?  Look up how to go about filling out a ballot in your country.  This link leads to a great basic guide on how to cast your vote in Ireland.

After the long run up to election day you should have a pretty good idea who you want to vote for.  Or worst case you’ll have a really good idea of who you don’t want to vote for.  Either way before you go to the ballot box it’s a good idea to sit with your thoughts  for a few moments and make a firm, informed, final decision.  Then stick with your decision.  If when you get your chance to vote you find yourself wavering for whatever reason just remember that something affected you strongly enough to make you choose to vote that way to begin with.  What ever reason that may have been it’s a reason you found while you sat and though hard on the subject.  So it’s probably a better reason to vote for your original candidate than realising that “yer one standing for (insert name of party) is a bit of a ride and sure wouldn’t it great to watch her on telly”.

In the last election I genuinely heard someone say this while I sat behind them on the bus.  Now in all fairness she was a bit of fox, but that is not a good enough reason to vote for anyone.  You’re voting for a bloody government, not whoever sang some bad rendition of some crappy song on some glorified karaoke contest last night on the television.

So after everything the canvassers, the thinking, the wishing the whole annoying political show would wind up and go away you’ve done your patriotic bit for your nation.  Well done.  Go home and have a beer. You’ve earned it.

But never ever forget that as a citizen your vote is your most precious right.  You pay for it with your taxes.  You pay for it by submitting to the laws of your nation, even the ones you don’t agree with.  So use your right, use your vote and for goodness sake make sure you don’t waste your vote Don’t waste your chance to make a difference by filling out the damned ballot wrong.


General Elections: Interrogating the Candidates

Here in Ireland we are now a mere 8 days from probably the most eagerly awaited general election since the founding of the state.  But many Irish people are still quite naive about electioneering. About how to use their voice and above all about their place in the grand scheme of things.  So over the next three posts I will hopefully help a few people both here and in other countries to get the most from any election.

In any election all the parties will bring out their manifestos to immense fanfare.  These booklets are meant to be a road map to what a given party will attempt to achieve while in office.  Typically they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on.  The unfortunate truth is that whether the new boss is the same as the old boss or indeed ends up being the same old boss the winner in any election campaign will quickly run in to one very solid brick wall.  The last guys will have left some sort of political mess that with even the best intentions in the world will still take a couple of years to clear up.  This is the charitable reason why election manifestos are worthless.

It's important to give everyone their say, even those who let us down in the past.

The uncharitable reason is that they are to put it simply nothing but lies told to a hopeful and sometimes desperate populace to get a party elected.  So if you can’t trust the party manifestos how do you choose who to vote for?  Well you take your brain out of neutral use it and then use your voice.

Start by looking at the history of actions taken in the last decade by all the parties and even the independents.  In most nations most of the talking heads of any political party will have changed surprisingly little in a decade and their past actions will provide you with a good litmus test of their future conduct.  Ask yourself and their histories a few simple questions…

Did they live up to their election promises?

Did they protect the vulnerable in your nations society?

Were the taxes they gathered on your behalf spent wisely?

Did they put the best people for a given cabinet position in the right place?

Did they do a good job at protecting your nations interests both at home and abroad?

Is the country better off because of them?

Did they act with honour?

All of these questions (barring the taxation one which only applies to the last ruling party/parties) are just as important to ask of either the government or the opposition.  Though for my money the most important of those questions is the last.

“Why,” you ask “is their sense of honour so important?  After all we all know that politicians are self-serving snakes.”

Well they’re not all snakes.  Any group of people will have its demons.  So yes politics will draw the sort of people you wouldn’t trust to count potatoes.  But it will also draw true statesmen and women who wish only to act in the national interest.  So yes I do believe their individual and group sense of honour is vitally  important especially when you intend to ask some of them to speak for you for.  After all if we can’t trust them to be honourable no-one else will either and that will only be bad for your country or mine on an international stage.

Once you’ve done your research into their pasts you need to think about the various parties futures and what you as a citizen would like to see them do for your country if they’re elected.  To this end you need to sit down and really think.  Think about what the last government both failed and succeeded to achieve in their term of office.  Think about what your country needs first and foremost, then your county, then your town (or whatever your local regions are broken down into).  Try to think beyond what we Irish call “parish pump politics”.  You are after all going to vote for a national government, so try to leave the knucklehead local stuff for local politics.

This is where you decide who gets the job. Make sure you give it to the best candidate for your country.

Once you’ve decided what you want from your future representative and the government in which he or she will sit, write a shopping list.  I am absolutely serious about this.  Write a list of them.  Group them logically, with social, taxation and political reform wishes all grouped in a logical and easy to follow way.  Put your name and address to it.  Print it off, a minimum of one per party representative and when they come to your door go through it with them.

Don’t take no for an answer.  These people want to be elected.  That means they want you to give them a well paid position in the national company.  They want to work for you and the election campaign is their job interview. Make them give you an answer on each and every point.  Make them take their copy of your list with them.  In fact mail it to their political headquarters and if you can even get your townsfolk to do the same.  Remember that politics is not a science it’s an art-form where the art is produced by national committee, so its quality is dependent on everyone giving their best effort.

In closing I’ll repeat the core point of this post.  The election campaign is nothing more mystical than a job interview for political candidates and parties.  Never forget that and never let them forget it either.

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