Political awareness

My editorial from yesterday’s Cork Indo:

On my way to work yesterday I was listening to Morning Ireland on RTE Radio One; there are so many things happening in the world of politics these days that there’s a genuine danger of blinking and missing another resignation.
The recent wave of resignations in Irish politics has been shocking, and very exciting for those of us who see politics as the next best thing to Eastenders. But I’m not so sure about everyone else.
On radio yesterday morning I listened to a brief debate between Trinity College Politics lecturer Elaine Byrne and RTE Political Correspondent David Davin Power, both of whom I respect immensely.
They spoke of political change, reform of the voting system, a public consultation process where people could give their views on political change. At the end of the discussion, Davin Power made an assertion I found quite striking; “we’re a very politically aware nation”.
Are we?
Granted, everyone was talking about Willie O’Dea last week. Everyone knows who Willie O’Dea is; the funny guy from Limerick with the moustache and the gun. The week before, it was George Lee; the country’s celebrity politician. The Déirdre de Búrca affair only seemed to be on the radar of political hacks; I’d bet money that nobody on the street in Cork would’ve been able to tell me who she was before she resigned.
This week, it’s Trevor Sargent. Again, I think it’s debatable whether most people here in Cork would’ve been able to identify Trevor from a lineup, despite the fact that he used to be leader of the Green Party.
For someone like David Davin Power, who is embedded in political Ireland, to assert that we are a very politically aware nation, tells us something; those inside the culture have no idea what’s going on outside it.
Davin Power spends his days in Leinster House and RTE and not out doing vox pops with people who’d rather discuss the price of petrol, or Cheryl Cole, or how long they had to wait for an appointment with a consultant; those are the things of which most of us are aware.
The vast majority of people in the country don’t give a fiddlers’ about the political system, and those who do tend to see it as a soap, with the fall of Trevor only just behind the fall of Bradley in terms of tragedy and honour.
But what people fail to see – largely because the media fails to highlight it – is that the political system has a very real bearing on how we live and why we live that way. People live in dire poverty and inhuman conditions in Moyross and Finglas because of corrupt planning. Drug dealers get rich off the back of inequality compounded by a cosy cartel of politicians, developers and bankers. Because of today’s bank rescue plans, tomorrow your son or daughter won’t be able to get a job, because there will be no money there to help them through college or support new businesses.
Political reform can only come when the majority of people in this country are prepared to invest some energy in the political system. When people begin to vote and actually think about their vote. When people start to ask what politicians can do for the country, rather than what they can do for them.


One comment

  1. Political awareness in Ireland is much like how most people in the country view rugby, they know the names of the popular players and will cheer them on when it's going well but they've not got a clue about the laws or the detail of the game.

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