doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change
Towards A Second Republic - Introduction
Many commentators have made many criticisms of the Good Friday Agreement. In so many ways it is an imperfect - even deeply flawed - document. Yet most of this criticism has offered other than vague utopian-isms on how to make it better. And defenders of this particular Agreement eagerly seize on this lack of constructive criticism to prove their case that there is no alternative to the GFA.
One reason for this apparent lack is that critics on the Republican side of the fence have no interest in constructing an Even Newer And More Improved Stormont Mk III! I personally believe that those unhappy with the current anti-democratic structure should be concentrating on developing a comprehensive framework - theroetical, constitutional, institutional and legislative - for a Second Republic that we can all call home. And I mean all - Catholic, Protestant, Dissenter, Atheist, Hindu, Muslim, Nationalist, Republican, Unionist, Loyalist, Southern Anglo-Irish, Southern Gaels, Sino-Irish, Nigerian-Irish, Romanian-Irish - anybody and everybody that resides upon this island.
A major task, yet not an impossible one. We have the examples (good and bad) from many other countries to to complement our own native talents and experience. Building a big enough tent to hold everybody who is Irish, in the broadest sense of being from this island, can be done with a bit of imagination and effort. There are those who cry that it is impossible - I say its never been tried, and that those who resist it generally benefit in some way from the chaotic and unnatural current state of Irish politics and society.
Our first lesson lies in one of the primary flaws of the GFA - its institutionalisation of sectarianism. By forcing everybody to take sides - Unionist, Nationalist or Other - and ignoring the votes of the Others, the GFA crystallizes the divisions, formalises and perpetuates them. Every act by politicians within the GFA framework now boils down to, in essence, playing in one of two inter-related games:
Nothing else is really important within the system. The performance of an Executive Minister is largely meaningless due to the London/NIO control over the purse strings and strategic policy objectives. The Sectarian Swindle is the only real game in town. Thus, as a mechanism for reducing divisions and promoting reconciliation, the GFA is not just a failure but positively perverse!
We should also bear in mind the utter failure of similar diversity promotion schemes over the last 30 years around the world. Affirmative action, quotas, special-interest-group lobbying, exemptions and dispensations - none of these actually work, and none succeed in reducing inter-group tensions. The fatal flaw should be obvious, yet policy-makers around the world persist in making the same mistake again and again. The flaw is this - by the mere act of creating categories to be monitored, the vital sense of otherness is created in the minds of everyone, and group allegiance dynamics automatically come into play. In simpler terms, while an individual may initially resent being categorised and placed in a particular camp, it is only human nature to seek out others in your category and to instinctively cheer on your team - even if a victory for the team may mean a loss for other individuals. Put even more simply, once people are divided people up into categories it eventually and automatically leads to a certain level of dehumanisation of the others. And so group tensions and rivalries are merely reinforced by any such programme, whether the situation be Northern Ireland, US race relations, protection of ethnic/religious minorities, gender equality etc
the existing Republic, a high level of centralisation of all power
in Dublin has led directly to the ludicrous imbalance in economic
development between the East and West - with the social problems of
rural depopulation and poverty in the West and an urban underclass
in the East, as a result. The brown-envelope planning scandals currently
under investigation, the other excesses and abuses of the Haughey
era, current problems in the Garda Siochána, clientelism and
parish-pump politics - all of these are the result of
massive power at central level and no real power at the local - and
no mechanism to separate central political control from impartial
Putting all this together we need a system which creates a Big Tent for all Irish citizens; accommodates geographically concentrated groupings - with various differing national identities/affiliations; avoids the possibility of majoritarian tyranny; avoids excessive centralisation of power; discourages corruption; and protects and promotes equality of opportunity for all citizens without explicitly endorsing sectarianism and group interest politics.
But what system could meet these requirements?
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