Time for change

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If the events of the last few weeks have made anything abundantly clear it is that National Politics in there present form in Ireland are not working. We have a system that appears to be based on “nod & wink” politics, where those with access and influence get everything and the majority of hard working citizens in Ireland are left to rot.

The worst proponents of this type of politics are the Fianna Fail party. I feel now that this is the case because of all the political parties they have been the longest in power. Therefore they have been infected by the parish pump politics disease that plagues Ireland the worst. The cult of personalities and local issues has paralysed our representatives away from helping forge the direction the country is taking for the betterment of its citizens to a sad shell anchored firmly to dealing with local issues.

It’s all very well whinging about this dilemma but what exactly can we do as a nation to fix our National Representative Politics?

How can we ensure that those trusted with shaping an Ireland that will meet the needs of our children are allowed to do their jobs?

The first thing to address is the way personality and local issues seem anchor representatives to the idea that they have to be a “jumped up councillor” to ensure they get re-elected every 5 years. What is needed is to take this blockage away and focus the electorates’ minds on voting for policies and not for single or local issues. Surely that is what our councillors are for?

We have to introduce a list system of election for our National Parliament the Dail in Ireland. Before the elections the parties present a list of nominated candidates. People vote in their constituencies for parties based on their policies and the representatives are filled from these lists. This means a concentration on policies and more importantly it means when the parties are filling important positions like ministerial posts they can choose those most suited to those positions and not someone because that area needs a minister. With this will come a cull of the numbers in our House of Representative to a more appropriate number of around 100 representatives.

The second is the abolition or reform of the upper house the Seanad, which has turned from safety valve to nothing more than a useless talking shop filled with burnt out past their sell by date TD’s and those who couldn’t manage to get elected but were owed “favours”.

I will put more thoughts up in the next couple of days on council reform and on the public service.

From Communities to Commodities

Online communities are strange places. You make friends and enemies purely on what they write or how they present themselves through text. On occasion those friendships move into the real world and with people you never would have met through your normal circle of friends. Normally online communities have formed on bulletin boards and consisted of text based linear discussions where someone would post their train of thought from the mundane to the philosophical and then their peers would expand on it, agree with it, tear it apart; it would act as a catalyst for them all to interact with each other. In a way sites like these pioneered social networking before bebo, myspace or facebook were a glimmer in their creator’s eyes.

Any online communities I have had experience with normally started off based around specific interests, one example would be computer gaming. They tended to branch out from there initial focus because of “off topic discussions” outside of the original remit of the site. Areas were created for people to have these discussions. In some cases the “off topic” parts of these sites have become bigger than the initial reason the sites existed for in the first place. New people then joined these sites who may not share the values or ideals of those who were there from the start.

One major issue is as these communities grow they cost more money and resources to run. Now some of these running costs can be covered by the members in the form of subscriptions or donations, or via online marketing where some revenue can be gained from click through adverts but at the end of the day the people who set up the site normally have to foot the bill. Once communities hit a certain size, let us say a critical mass then the business world gets interested in them, and why not companies are always looking for ways to get noticed by groups of people and online communities give them the opportunity to do so. It also addresses the headache of those that run the site as well, if they accept sponsorship, sell shares, sell the site totally, float the site or any other method of injecting cash into the site then the running costs can be covered and they can even make a return or profit on their investment.

The problem is once you allow a business to get involved then it ceases to be a community, it’s now a commodity, and the members become an audience for adverts or potential customers for products. The site is no longer based around the community; it’s centred on growing the enterprise as a media outlet. If some of the employees are involved in the day to day running of the community their decisions will be tainted and guided by what is best for the Enterprise after all it is putting food on their tables. If the goals of the enterprise are at odds with the needs of the community as a whole unfortunately the company wins. In the long run that will be the worst thing for the community as it has moved away from the needs of the members to the wants of the enterprise.

Time for Fine Gael to grow a pair

After George Lees “toys out of the pram” walk away episode from the Dail yesterday Enda Kennys leadership of the Fine Gael party has to be called into serious question.

The Two Brians of Fianna Fail probably cannot believe their luck, its like all their Christmas’s have come at once. I can just imagine the party atmosphere that must exist at “Developer Friends Towers” in Mount Street after yesterdays spectacle.

But there is an opportunity from this. It is obvious Fine Gael have been held back from surging ahead in the polls because of their current leader. With this ill-judgement and mismanagement from Enda Kenny an opportunity exists for the brave to grasp the nettle and remove him as leader and allow the floating voters of this country stand behind Fine Gael and give the current government the almighty kicking that they deserve at the next election.

The next few days will tell us if Fine Gael are prepared to enter new territory or if its going to be more of the same.

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