Peadar Kirby: Despite promises of the imminent announcement of a constitutional convention in the spring of next year and of plans for local government reform, the dynamic of reform has lost momentum since the last election. And, as the staunch defence of Ireland’s low corporation tax rate indicates, the reform agenda remains narrow and has entirely failed to address what needs to be done to move beyond the neoliberal development model that is centrally responsible for the present crisis. In other words, the reform debate needs to be broadened to examine the wider links between the political and administrative system, the nature of the Irish economy and its leading sectors, and the ways in which civil society acts either as an agent for change or for resisting change. We need a focus on Ireland’s political economy options as part of the move towards a second republic.
In our forthcoming book entitled ‘Towards a Second Republic: Irish Politics after the Celtic Tiger’ (Pluto Press), Mary Murphy and I offer an analysis of the ways in which the Irish collapse had its roots in the political and administrative system. Not only did these grossly mismanage the Celtic Tiger boom, but they have created a particular model of development, highly dependent on foreign investment and very resistant to taxing the huge profits made in Ireland so as to fund decent public infrastructure and services. For too long, civil society has acquiesced in this subservience to global capital, failing to put pressure on the state to respond more adequately to the needs of the many vulnerable in Irish society. As a result, we have created a society blighted by gross inequalities and based on a growth model that emitted high levels of greenhouse gases thus making it unsustainable. The book examines the challenges in an all-Ireland context, analysing whether the second republic will overcome partition and be an all-island state.
It identifies two alternative models being promoted by sectors of civil and political society. Foremost among these is a developmental social democratic model, espoused by organised sectors of civil society and by some among the political left while the ecological or Green movement seeks a model that can loosely be called an ethical or ecological socialism. While this latter seems less feasible now, the dramatic impacts of climate change and of peak oil over coming years may well create conditions that make such a model more realisable. Mary and I draw on developments in the European Union and elsewhere in the world to offer lessons for the challenges and possibilities now facing us in Ireland. The book’s final chapters examine what forces exist in today’s Irish politics and society to promote a new model and what the prospects are for its realisation.
A debate on the book takes place in the Oak Room of the Mansion House, Dawson Street, Dublin at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 3rd. In addition to Mary and myself, contributors will include Professor Kathleen Lynch (UCD), Catherine Murphy TD, Fintan O’Toole (Irish Times), David Begg (ICTU). All are welcome. Copies of the book will be available at a special discounted price of €15.