With rumours of impending technocracy on the centre – centre right, and crass ignorance on the left, who is there to defend the once-sacred Irish Constitution ?
Bunreacht na hÉireann was written in 1937 with some skill, under the direction of otherwise arch-conservative and anti-radical Éamon de Valera, by senior civil servants.
It was enacted by the people to set new a democratic foundation for legislation passed in the 26 county State (soon to become a Republic). It gave the organs of the State a Republican form with some modest Republican principles on civil liberties, parliamentary democracy, the right to a home, aspiration towards social goals. It outlawed foreign rule (in spite of which the bailout etc. largely remained uncontested) and gave according to article 27, the right to all Irish people to decide their future periodically in matters of national importance by referendum. This has come about particularly on EU issues although the sense of enfranchisement has been somewhat negated by a public feeling of disillusionment, due to being made to re-run EU Referenda of late until the correct response is given.
When you strip away the opening rhetoric about the Holy Trinity, Dev actually managed to limit the role of the Church in the semi-theocratic environment of that time by reducing it to a ‘special position in accordance with the wishes of the majority’, the latter being important, as the majority of people eventually removed that position from the constitution in the democratic mechanism afforded them in the 1970s. Dev specifically gave constitutional protection to Jews – ‘considered to be a necessary component to the constitution by Éamon de Valera because of the treatment of Jews elsewhere in Europe at the time.’ The reference to the Jewish Congregations in the Irish Constitution was removed in 1973 with the Fifth Amendment
The same amendment removed the ‘special position’ of the Catholic Church, as well as references to the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, and the Religious Society of Friends.”
Contrary to his stern and strict stereotyping of asylum seekers(?), between 1946-52 De Valera over-ruled the ever renegade Department of Justice on at least 3 occasions to have several hundred Jewish families admitted to the 26 County State, no small number for the time considering the sizeable community of 5000 Jews in Ireland then. It was constitutionalism and basic human decency that motivated these actions, and they stand out heroically considering the atmosphere towards the Jews in the 1930s-1950s period.
It should not be forgotten either that Irish society at large mobilised against the Blueshirts – the left- leaning IRA under Tom Barry and others battled them effectively and broke up their meetings; the people mobilised in public shows of support against them and the 1937 vote was seen specifically as a rejection of Fascism by a nonetheless very anglophobic and war weary public in the young State; and most importantly the government under De Valera suppressed the Fascist movement, making it illegal in 1933 and used the organs of the State under the Bunreacht to protect Ireland’s neutrality in WW2 as well.
The right often forget these things when they talk about the nuisance that is the Bunreacht, about how these regular referenda on societal and EU issues are undemocratic in the greater European scheme of things, and how the people do not take their vote seriously anyways with turnout often below 60%. The right however, since the days of Thatcher and of Haughey, and with the most corrosive levels of corruption and corrupting economic liberalism to hit Ireland and elsewhere in centuries, have replaced the previous centrist culture of complex characters like Dev and Lemass with something that holds the Bunreacht in contempt: re-running referenda after 9 months in 2008 and 2009 remains the most memorable examples. Abortion and divorce referenda were usually held with several years interval to respect the will of the people. There is no pretence to the same anymore as shown by Brian Cowen’s now infamously hollow ‘The people have spoken’ slogan in 2008 and Eamon Gilmore’s deliberately lie to the people on the Six One news in 2008 and 2009 on the Lisbon Referendum. He told the US Embassy his lies were necessary to force the public to swallow the Treaty along with ‘concessions’ not written on paper, but promised half-arsedly by EU Bureaucrats and politicians of the day.
His bare-faced lies were exposed by Wikileaks
So the right has replaced the centre ground and centrist republican principles have gone out the window. Bunreacht na hÉireann specifically states the collective governance of the nation by a Cabinet to be a right of the people We have a government run by a Politburo in the form of a Four Minister and dozen advisors in the Economic Management Council (EMC). This is admitted by the more constitutional government Ministers in Pat Leahy’s new book ‘to be totally unconstitutional’.
The neutering of the Dáil since Bertie’s day and cronyist and cynical actions of late against the Seanad have also worked to the disadvantage of the Bunreacht’s bare necessity to maintain certain Republican safeguards for the people. The Seanad now has a majority against the government. Some are speculating that for the first time it might prove an effective counterweight to a centralising culture within FG and Labour particularly in ending delay of legislation to promote debate and its’ recognition of Palestine.
The public saw through the cynical attempt to rob them of a constitutional safeguard when no real reform of the effectiveness and democratic nature of the Seanad as a checkpoint was on offer. No point removing something from the 1937 doctrine of Republicanism, if nothing better was on offer. The politicians seemed annoyed they had to consult the public on the issue and it is one in a series of bloody noses the semi-fascist Kenny government has had to accept.
By semi-fascist this writer is alluding to the EMC, the open flouting of Data law under Irish Water which may well be against a citizen’s right to privacy under the Bunreacht and certainly is against their rights under Data Protection Law, Kenny’s own notable control through his underlings of several departments at any one time including for a while simultaneous control of Defence, European affairs, Health and Justice(this man sacked the Garda Commissioner more or less, when this is something which under the Constitution only the Cabinet can do).
So on the right and centre ground we have tendencies towards Fascism or Authoritarianism with moderate centrist cabinet voices too Quisling to risk their own political necks by speaking out-with jobs for the boys more important than principles.
We had excitable Dáil-sourced rumours on Max Keiser’s well informed website of an impending technocratic installed government in late 2014/into 2015 if the government failed to pass the 2 billion euro austerity budget asked for by the Troika who continue to monitor us every 6 months, so maybe the rumours are not quite unfounded. A Mario Monti style scenario, imposed by outsiders, would be entirely outside the 1937 Bunreacht’s boundaries. But we saw a cynical attempt to fool the public into allowing political show trials in tandem with the desire to abolish the second chamber(the paralysing second chamber in Italy being the Italian Republic’s last guard on occasion in recent times against Kleptocrats and Technocrats). Overt arse-wiping with the Bunreacht is now commonplace – the troika marched in here without referenda nor significant legal opposition in the courts, the same goes for the ongoing banking reparations foisted on the public. Legally it cannot yet be done, but we do have an upcoming farcical ‘constitutional day’ whereby the government will try and make the Gay Marriage referendum a box ticking exercise along with 6 other issues of theirs, some simply added in to buy votes on liberal issues. It is worth keeping an eye on what else they try and get us to pass, then and after 2015 if re-elected in some form or with the help of a FF that has long since abandoned the pretence of defending the Bunreacht from the time of the 2008 over the phone early morning farce regarding the 440 bn euro guarantee.
Technocracy is already here covertly, but it may become an overt practice where convenient until the public re-elect the ‘right government’ in the same way they have to be seen to hold EU votes until they give the ‘right answer’.
A final note though is in regard to the left.
Karl Gill, a recently-elected politician on the left whose postings online are pretty anti-Republican, anti-SF and anti rival-left generally, recently wrote online that ‘The Irish constitution is rubbish. It does not protect us against water charges or the government of the day forcing a contract on us for any tax or charge. A conservative document written by Eamon de Valera in 1932 won’t and can’t bring us freedom, people power can. Also Irishness or national pride has nothing to do with fighting the water charges.’
The statement above itself is a sad indictment of a left most notably and near exclusively those in PBP, through its’ anti-1916 anti Republican ignorance, not calling for some electoral adaptation of the Proclamation, not calling for discussion of 1916 ideals, not engaged with the Republicans, Sinn Féiners and independent left fighting to preserve our 1916 heritage in the Moore Street area, not aspiring to strengthen the Bunreacht’s basic social provisions more explicitly in referenda, and despite calling for some Iceland referenda on the Troika deal, the bank debts etc. generally using the crisis more as an excuse to attack Republicanism through ignorance of what a constitution is about than what it is for- it is not supposed to bring everyone ‘freedom’ but afford them basic rights and protections, legally and socially.
From disgusting authoritarianism on the right to rabid ideological ignorance on the left, the idea of a Republic 14 months out from 2016 seems as elusive from a naturally Republican electorate as ever.
It can only be hoped the coalition built in battling Irish Water, and rapprochements by SF and the SF and independents since the 2 by-elections, are better signs for the future of the left and progressive indos than the PBP’s blind and rancid counter-gang attacks on the Bunreacht, and the undermining of democracy and equality under the law by the government.