The Fairytale of Irish Democracy: A response to Stephen Collins

I posted this response to another Stephen-Collins-by-numbers piece on the Irish Times website. Regular readers don’t need to read what I’ve written here since it’s pretty much a by-numbers response too. However I don’t believe such destructive nonsense should be allowed to go uncontested.


-‘If the authorities were not to be trusted, the authorities would have already warned us’

You do have to wonder just how much longer people –even this paper’s faithful readers- are to be taken in with these fairytales about democracy in Ireland.  

 A few reminders: first, the Troika is overseeing Ireland’s budgets is because finance capitalists do not trust the Irish population to pay back the debts its government has acquired. So this is not the rule of the people –that is what democracy means- but the rule of finance capital. Second, this supposedly temporary situation stands to be made permanent with the new measures introduced in the EU, whereby the European Commission –not elected by the Irish population- has the final say in whether Ireland’s budgets are appropriate. The ECB –again, unelected- the political wing of the European banking lobby, has impeccable anti-democratic credentials. It disdains public accountability and demands governments strip away welfare states that are a product of long decades of democratic struggle.  

 Third, the history of the women forced into slave labour by the Irish State in the Magdalene Laundries, and the broader history of Ireland’s repressive institutions, including the industrial schools and the vast numbers of people locked up in psychiatric institutions, ought to tell us that Ireland has an extremely weak claim to be a democratic state. The practice of democracy by citizens is actively discouraged, and opinions that dissent against Ireland’s right-wing free market orthodoxy are systematically ridiculed by a powerful media. 

 People are invited to think –not least by columns such as this one, but more broadly, by the political and media establishments- that politics is simply a profession, something that means forming part of a party apparatus dedicated to winning votes, but nothing more, and that democracy is little more than the exercise of a right to vote every few years. This ‘democracy’ entails surrendering any kind of political agency for the period of a government, and, at the current juncture, standing idly by whilst professional politicians, elected on a promise of giving not a red cent more to bank bondholders, shovel tens of billions in public money in the direction of said bondholders, and pay for it by dismantling health, education and welfare services. But it’s people who point this sort of thing out who are the ‘corrosive cynics’, not the hacks and insiders who approvingly cite Churchill to sustain the myth that not only is this democracy, but that it is as good as it gets. 


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