- Jun 4, 2009
Whatever it is, it would have to begin with baby steps. There is no realistic prospect of any radical reform in Irish society, so the best we can do is find small things to improve and build upon those slowly over time.Much of the focus of political debate surrounding Brexit has focused on the economic impact of a bad brexit or what opportunities might come Ireland's way as a result of the UK returning it's membership cards, dramatically sweeping it's scarf around its neck and haughtily saying to the EU, "I bid you good day, Sir."
Politically and socially, for historic reasons, Ireland's political and social model is essentially the same as that of the UK (the one main difference being the electoral system for parliament). But the permanent government - the public service, is essentially a British construct. The influences of the British political scene are writ large across our public life, from the Thatcherite policies of FG vis a vis the economy, to the New Labour style media management of Sinn Fein (and latterly Leo).
Politically and socially, I believe the country is stagnant. The HSE has been an unmitigated unwieldy disaster. Public transport infrastructure is decrepid, over-priced and not really of much use to the bulk of the country for the purposes of getting to and from work. The social housing crisis now has overtones of those who were decried during the boom as "economic traitors", whereby anyone calling out government policy is "talking down the country in front of the guests".
Compared to the experience on the continent, we are light years behind. Yes, there are problems there too, no country is entirely free of homelessness, there are traffic problems in Paris and Rome, and so on and so on. However, in my experience of living in Europe, they, on the whole, do things much better there.
For example - 2.8% of all our journeys are made by rail. Compared with 8.8% in the Netherlands, 9.5% in France and 11.5% in the Austria.
Why might this be? Decades of underinvestment in rail? Railways that don't get you to where you need to be on time?
No, it's a british thing whereby we don't pay for things that are expensive, even though the long term benefits will outweigh the initial outlay.
On the continent, the railway is viewed as something precious. It is subsidised to encourage use. It is relied upon for the commute. Here it seems to be viewed as a millstone.
I use the railways as one example, only to start the conversation. What, p.iesters, could we learn from Europe and begin to do well as we begin to socially and politically diverge from the UK?