“The water is the people’s, damn it!”
If it’s good enough for the residents of Castlerea or Manorhamilton or Longford it ought to be good enough for a Minister of State. This is an elementary democratic principle.
Ming Flanagan TD presented the Minister of State, Fergus O’Dowd, with a glass of the polluted water that his constituents are expected to drink –and pay for.
The Ceann Comhairle, Séan Barrett, described Ming Flanagan’s actions as
“an act of vandalism…never before in the history of this chamber have I seen such behaviour. Of a member walking down and handing a glass of dirty water to a minister. That is just outrageous and unacceptable behaviour and I’ve asked for an immediate meeting of the Committee for Procedure and Privileges to deal with this matter.”
The scandalised stance of the Ceann Comhairle illustrates the hatred of democracy that characterises Ireland’s political establishment. One might imagine similar scenes in which priests and nuns take umbrage at the suggestion a bishop should wash the feet of the poor rather than get his ring kissed by them.
What is the task of a political representative if not to represent the concerns of his or her constituents? And why should such representation stick to mere oratory –which in the Dáil is bound by strict time limitations and all kinds of arcane rules of decorum- when visual images convey constituent concerns more effectively?
Barrett subsequently sought to establish order in the chamber by declaring “we live in a democracy”.
Never mind that the commodification and privatisation of common goods such as water flies in the face of basic democratic principles. Never mind that the government’s efforts to pass its Water Services Bill, without even a superficial debate, demonstrates utter contempt, not only for the views of the official political opposition, but for those people whom political representatives are supposed to represent.
For Barrett, and for the rest of Fine Gael, and for the rest of Ireland’s political establishment, democracy equates to electoral absolutism, to translating the urgings of big business into legislation.
See these? These are votes. And that means we –not you, not really- can do what we want. Yes, we know you didn’t vote for it. Yes, we know we lied our asses off to get elected. But hey – that’s democracy! So shut your fat mouth and drink up your cryptosporidium. Don’t like your A&E department getting shut down? That’s democracy, shithead! Don’t like your water supply getting polluted by fracking chemicals -what are you, some sort of subversive? Why do you hate working for free so much – don’t you know that your legitimately elected government introduced JobBridge on your behalf?
The pale fact is that Ireland’s political institutions as they stand have little to do with democracy and a great deal to do with Committees for Procedure and Privileges. In reality, the Dáil exists to establish Procedures for destroying any prospect of democratic equality or participation, and to maintain Privileges on tap for billionaires, corporations, middlemen, speculators and their political cronies.