Irish Politics – Time for reform? by Liam O'Connor

The people of Ireland have endured a tough time lately.  And not for the first time. We are told that things are getting back to normal. Is that enough ?  When you think of Health, Planning, Social Inclusion, etc.......things weren't exactly perfect before the crash.  Why do we struggle to govern ourselves well.  Why the gap between what people know needs to be done, and what those who govern us set about doing.  Historically, we were governed.  Then when the founders of the modern country drafted a constitution they planned for us to have a voice.  But by the time the draft became final, the paragraphs that would have allowed any direct input from the people had been removed.

We have a representative democracy – that's fine, but now ONLY the representatives can set the agenda.  We elect them based on a programme for government, but have zero control on what laws get passed, or what promises go missing.

Citizens Initiatives – a way to improve Irish democracy ?

As the country edges toward a General Election, political parties are beginning to shape the conversations that suit their purpose – either explaining the past, or painting the future. Ordinary people in Ireland struggle to find a voice that satisfies their needs.  All parties and politicians are treated with a degree of suspicion (understandably).

Ordinary citizens want better. We need to give ordinary people more of a say in the big decisions that shape all our lives.  Under the banner of “the One Year Initiative”  (1Yi), we want the law changed, so that citizens could: a)  directly propose laws that the politicians are unwilling to take on and b)  veto bad laws that get pushed down peoples throats. 

At present this is not possible, the only option is to take to the streets, or act illegally, or wait for the next pick more of the same politicians.  We deserve the right to have direct input into our government (subject to sensible controls – like getting a fixed number of signatures, to show general support).

Without the possibility of causing change, over the years many people become disillusioned, watching the professional politicians play a power game – with the interests of ordinary people mearly the chess-pieces that get pushed around.  The biggest danger to our democratic is not a Stalanist take-over, not ISIS coming at us – it's apathy !  People need to feel they themselves are causing change.  Think of that great slogan from Obana: YES WE CAN !

A call to Action

The 1Yi campaign is not looking to get elected – vote for whatever party or persons you like, but only if they are willing to agree that YOU deserve the legal right to have a say on what laws are passed.  You might never use that right – but it should be there for you.

We are asking all candidates for election to pledge that they will set up a one-year-long process to deliver the system that will allow this to happen.  A formal pledge document is being sent to every candidate.  Already, over 100 candidates have signed up. 

With your questions on the doorstep we can get everyone to do what's right for Irish democracy.  If the candidates would not trust you to vote on issues of national importance, why should you vote for them !  Ask if they will support 1Yi

Note:  This in no way weakens Irish democracy – in fact it improves it by ensuring that the politicians must listen to the people -  more than they do right now !

There will always be tough choices for our leaders.  But with the people at the center of a communications battle to be sure we don't veto their bills, there will be more up-front thought about how the laws they make will impact people.  More details discussion.  Better presentation of the underlying facts as to why things must be done.

And the Irish people will have to grow too.  We will stop looking for the best fairy-story every election time.  We will look for those politicians who treat us with respect, who look out for our good, and share our journey. Great leaders do not emerge with “the plan”.  Great leaders listen to the people, hear what the people aspire to, and help them get there. 1Yi is not the answer to all our problems – in fact it does not instantly solve any specific problem.

But it provides a framework for a stronger democracy – for people to speak directly to those who we select to be our representatives, and thus we own the problems and the solutions. It represents political maturity for our democratic republic. 

I believe it is one of the most insightful (and simple) reforms since 1939.  With 1Yi, nothing is immediately changed, but everything can be different.  If WE want it to be. Tell all your friends & workmates tovisit  or  and find out more.



Liam O'Connor, Waterford