Fintan O’Toole is an intelligent and thought provoking commentator.
His new book, Enough Is Enough, offers 50 proposals for political and social reform. Many offer sensible and credible solutions to the failures of our current system and are remarkably similar to Sinn Fein’s current policy agenda. Others, while not to the tastes of this writer, are none the less valuable contributions to the ongoing debate about how to build a better Ireland.
However, his proposals for how to deal with the current political and economic crisis are completely off the wall.
Speaking on The Frontline on Monday 22 November and writing in the following days Irish Times he argued that the Government should stand down, be replaced by a ‘short term technical administration’ to be followed by a referendum on ‘two alternative plans’ on the states future.
The proposals, despite Fintan’s good intentions, are illogical, contradictory and deeply undemocratic.
His ‘technical administration’ would be ‘led by people of integrity and competence’ and although not granted any political power would negotiate on our behalf, presumable with the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.
These people would not be elected and would have no negotiating mandate but would be tasked with producing an agreement on the future of the economy.
By any standards the appointment of a caretaker administration is a deeply undemocratic idea. Who would appoint them and against what criteria? On what basis would they negotiate, with whom and to what end?
Is Fintan really suggesting that Michael Sommers of the NTMA and Mary Robinson should negotiate the future economic and social development of the state with the EU and IMF?
In addition to being undemocratic the ‘technical administration’ idea also clashes with Fintan’s referendum idea.
On The Frontline he suggested that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael should draft a proposal on the future political and economic development of the state while the Labour Party and ICTU should draft an alternative plan and that both be put to the people in a referendum. This, he argued, would restore popular sovereignty.
Now just how a referendum on these two packages would sit with outcome of the international negotiations conducted by the unelected ‘technical administration’ is not quite clear.
And why Labour is assumed to be sufficiently different from Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to form an opposing side in any referendum is also unclear? After all do Labour not support the governments four year deficit reduction plan and have they not ruled out reversing any aspect of the Government’s €6billion austerity budget?
Lest the reader think I am being unkind I must admit that Fintan is right about a number of things; the current Government no longer has a mandate to govern; radical social, economic and political reform are required to get us out of the mess created by Fianna Fail and the Green Party; and crucially popular sovereignty must be restored.
Rather than come up with badly thought out schemes for saving the country Fintan should join the call for an immediate general election, carefully read the policy positions and pre-budget submissions of all the political parties and publically support the party whose positions most closely reflect his own.
The only problem is that if he took this course of action he would have no other choice than to vote for Sinn Fein. Now that would be a real sign of change!
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