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What is Democracy?

What is Democracy?

Unity Leader 20th June 2020

By Mel Corry

Just as we predicted last week, the economic future for the North looks bad. Ulster bank Chief Economist Richard Ramsey confirmed the stark predictions we made last week. All sectors of the economy are experiencing stress in terms of the coming recession.

The beleaguered aerospace sector has announced a further round of job losses and the Minister for the Economy, Diane Dodds, suggested that these workers should upskill to help the prospects of re-employment.

Unite official, Susan Fitzgerald, who has stoutly defended workers in all sectors recently, reminded the Minister through the media that these workers are the most highly skilled workers in this place. Nothing short of a strategy to protect jobs and skills in these sectors will do.

The response of the Minister is to establish an advisory panel of the North’s finest economic brains and produce a strategy for recovery. The link to the strategy on the government website is broken, maybe an omen for the future. We know by the make-up of this panel that the Minister, probably relying on the guidance of her civil servants, has produced a committee filled with CEOs of local companies and some well-known neo-liberal economists.

The voices of the ordinary citizen are completely absent from this committee, no trade unionists, no- one from the community and voluntary sector, no educationalists. No one to fight for a just transition from reliance on fossil fuel to renewable energy. No-one to argue for the creation of thousands of jobs with the adoption of a green new deal.

We shouldn’t be surprised as this is quite typical when faced with a crisis, get a group of ‘high-flyers’ who all think the same to come up with recommendations that serve their needs.

There is a very clear democratic deficit in the establishment of this panel especially given the acknowledgement of key workers during the spike in Coronavirus, it’s back to business as usual. The prospects for a report which will produce anything but a call for further austerity, which in itself has killed thousands of people, are predictable. We deserve better.

Another example of a democratic deficit is the grubby deal that has been hammered out in Dublin to frustrate the appetite for change in the South. Fianna Fail, Fine Gael have settled the civil war and with the help of the Greens have agreed the terms of a triumvirate to govern the state.

This completely ignores the will of the people expressed at the last election.

Whilst the result was inconclusive in terms of seats, the thrust of that election was clearly for a new progressive politics reflected in the huge number of first preference votes for Sinn Fein.

The Green Party were a beneficiary of the public mood and not for the first time they have sold out the voters and indeed their many decent and progressive activists by allowing the two conservative parties to rebuild their shattered reputations with a bit of token greenwashing here and there.

The Covid crisis was a godsend to Fine Gael with Varadkar given the opportunity to present himself as some sort of Churchillian figure who led the country in its hour of greatest need. Micheál Martin is so desperate to be Taoiseach it’s embarrassing and Eamon Ryan seems to be a peculiar shade of green with the inability to see that environmental concerns are intertwined with the wishes of the people. The people called for a move away from the worst excess of capitalism that keeps us impoverished and is killing the planet.

It is clear that none of these initiatives will deliver for the people, we need a conversation across Ireland, what is democracy?

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Originally published in Unity, weekly of the Communist Party of Ireland

The online edition of Unity can be viewed here.

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