A new politics is needed

July 2, 2007 at 10:40 am | Posted in Statements | Leave a comment

The University Seanad race is now in full flight. In my campaign, I have tried to speak only on the issues and to do so in a straightforward and forthright manner. I have tried to avoid clichés and the usual serving of platitudes.

 I am standing because I care deeply about certain issues. Primarily, I care about democracy, by which I mean about how citizens can determine the world in which they live. I care about having a civilised society where all people count and are respected. I care about maintaining a rich and diverse environment so that our children can remain fully human and healthy. 

I know that many people in our country are in despair about politics. Politics in Ireland has become a diminished activity where noise and bluster, strokes and cunning, deal-making and favours seem to be the only currency. It’s a politics of ‘dig-outs’, patronage and ritualised pretences of outrage and conviction. 

As a result, we as a people have lost our belief in politics as a moral activity – as a noble endeavour designed to produce a society of decency and dignity. The link between politics and the ‘good life’ is sundered. We are all diminished by its sheer mediocrity and shallowness. 

In my campaign, I have spoken to people from all over the country. Much of what I have heard has been shocking. There are stories that never get heard. I recall in particular a woman still on a waiting list for cancer treatment. Last Friday night, I sat in a community hall in North Mayo with 150 people at a meeting on the Corrib gas project. What did they want? Just to be secure, to be respected, and to be listened to. Last Wednesday night, I heard a woman describe to the EU Parliament Petitions Committee in Galway a horrific story of neglect and ill-treatment from her local authority.  And what sadder symbol of our present condition than the proposal to put a motorway through the Tara complex in Meath. This is an assault not just on a physical feature but on our identity, on our psychic resources as a people, on how we value who we are. We have come to favour 10 minutes less driving time than our own cultural integrity. 

Is it any wonder our despair, our violence, our lost young people? 

We Irish are greater than all of this though. We deserve better because we are better. The politics of greed and the politics of no vision represented at the last election does no justice to who we are and who we might be. We are a generous and warm people who are few in number on a small island. We can make ourselves a great society. I hope that soon there will be a new politics that can allow that vision become reality. 

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