Political debates can be tough at times. Some people blame social media for the decline in political discussion. But personal attacks have existed before the age of social media. It is important that we have political debates in a democracy. These debates allows the voters to choose which vision they want to guide their country. But when debates descend into personal attacks then the voters are deprived of real democratic choice. Personal attacks serves the interest of the status quo. They allow the ruling ideology to go unchallenged. When a nation reaches crisis point then people can’t choose an alternative because they haven’t heard the alternatives vision properly.
Political debate should focus on the policies that the politicians offer. Personal attacks should be left out of the debate. In this era of environmental and economic crisis the stakes are too high, we shouldn’t descend into childish personal attacks. Politics and democracy is too important in the world today. Politics isn’t just a game. It should be about building a humane and just society.
John O Brien.
As my first book has been finished I am in the process of choosing a professional proofreader. It is important that the first book Christianity and social democracy is as professional as possible. I am planning of turning my blog posts into book form too. I have ideas about other topics but they are in the pipeline. My reflections about the world has lead me to conclude that we as a society need to change direction if we want a society which values freedom democracy and social justice. There are many issues that I could look at. While I am a member of the Labour Party my writing is open to engage with people of all parties and none. It is open to people who disagree with me. No one person has all the answers. It is through debate and the clash of ideas that we humans gain knowledge.
John O Brien.
When Mallow had its own town council its business rates were the lowest in Co Cork. Now rates went up as Mallow Town is now part of Co Cork. The power of our democratic representives has lessened while the power of appointed officials continues. Mallow had issues to resolve but I believe that a Town Council would have done a better job than what we have now.
The last government did abolish town councils as part of its reforms of local government. This was a decision that the Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin has publically admitted was a mistake. Party members have voted to restore town councils. The Parliamentary Labour Party has introduced a bill to restore town councils. With the present government being in a minority there is a chance of this bill being successful. I believe that Fianna Fáil has said in the past that they would like to restore town councils.
I believe that Ireland is too centralised as a state. We need more local democracy. Town Councils aid in this decentralisation of power.
John O Brien.
I have been listening to people and I have seen myself that the prices of houses in the Mallow area. I have also noticed that there are empty buildings in Mallow. The housing crisis is a national crisis and it affects Mallow too. The government is already interfering in the housing market. It pays out HAPs. It puts homeless people into hotels. People who rent have less money to spend in shops, pubs and cinemas. This affects local businesses too.
In the past we did build social housing. These houses were not free houses. People paid rent on these houses. But the rent they paid was reasonable as it was based on the income that people earned. Councils and local government has been responsible for public housing. Any obstacles to solving this crisis must be identified and removed if we want to solve this crisis.
We must solve the crisis of housing by building public houses. The present policy is making the country uncompetitive and it is causing human misery. This misery must end. All ideological opposition to social housing must be confronted. The housing crisis affects all of Ireland and it affects Mallow too.
In the 1950s the British Conservatives boasted that they build more public housing than Labour. Unfortunately our modern conservatives don’t care for the middle and the lower classes anymore.
In 2014 when we voted for our MEPs we were also voting for the President of the European Commission. When we will vote in 2019 we will vote for a new President again. This process makes the EU more democratic. I believe that this is a good thing. The European Peoples Party is the biggest group, the Socialists are the 2nd biggest group and the Liberals are the 3rd biggest group in the EU Parliament.
Fine Gael are in the EPP group. Labour is in the Socialists group. Fianna Fáil are in the Liberal group. If the Socialist candidate wins the most seats in Parliament and Ireland doesn’t return any Labour MEPs then we will be in a weakened position in relation to Europe. If we want to change the direction of the EU from neoliberalism towards social democracy then we need to vote for the candidates who support social democracy.
My fear is during the next EU election we might just focus on domestic issues and ignore the wider context of European politics. Neoliberalism has failed as the banking crisis has skown. Yet parties that support neoliberalism still get elected. They still retain power. If we really want change instead of talking about change then we need to vote for change. That means voting for social democratic candidates for the EU Parliament. In the Irish context that means voting for the Labour candidates.
The Irish Labour Party is having its annual conference this weekend. The old certainties have been upturned since 2011. We need new thinking in these new times. There will be plenty of debate this weekend in relation to the future direction of the party.
Personally I think there are 3 main questions that we as a party must look at. 1. What makes us different from other parties and what do we stand for? 2. How do we relate with the voters and how do we connect with the voters? 3. How do we as a party move forward together?
The Irish Labour Party played a proud role in the struggle for Irish freedom from 1916 onwards. James Connolly who was one of the founders of the Labour Party played a major role in 1916. But unfortunately we let Sinn Féin lead the struggle instead of seeking the leadership of the nation. What makes us different from the other parties is that we are rooted in the question of economics. We seek an economy that serves the needs of the majority of the people. We are guided by rational discussion, we are not guided by dead out of date ideology.
Our support among the voters has been up and down throughout our history. Irish voters are open to pragmatic forms of socialism. We have seen in the past that other parties do claim to be mildly socialist from time to time. We can’t expect the voters to trust us. We have to earn their trust. We must remember that we are the servants and not the masters of the people.
I believe that as a social democratic party we want society to have more democracy. The fight for democracy in society means that we as a party must be democratic ourselves. As a democratic party which is led by its members our values should inspire others to fight for justice.
If Labour believes that there is no difference between the parties, that it is just a question of numbers then we would struggle for existence. If we are happy with being a minority party then injustice will continue. We have to have hope and we must be more ambitious. We already have extreme left parties. We already have liberal parties. We as a party must stand out from the crowd. We must be the Labour Party. We must be a pragmatic social democratic party that is now in opposition but who seeks to make Ireland in the 21st century the century of labour.
John O Brien.
Michael D Higgins former President of the Labour Party has been reelected on the first count as President of Ireland. The last President to face an election was Éamon De Valera in 1966. The only other candidate to keep his disposit was Peter Casey the businessman While this election was historic many in the media focused on Peter Casey. I find this strange because you would think they would focus on the winner. I think that the media is not diverse enough. It doesn’t allow enough voices to be heard in Ireland. I believe that more voices needs to be heard. In the past the Press group of newspapers was set up by De Valera because the voice of Fianna Fáil wasn’t given a voice at that time. Running a media group even with modern technology costs money. The voice of moderate social democracy needs to be heard. The results of the Presidental election shows there is a market for this voice.
John O Brien.