Tag Archives | Global Irish Economic Conference

Why we shouldn’t give the diaspora the vote

This post has been brewing for a while. A letter appeared in the Irish Independent some time ago that took a theme that I’ve seen many times before, and which I’ve begun to form a strong aversion to. Here’s the text of the letter first of all (available here):

If David McWilliams (Irish Independent, December 16) is so concerned about the power of the ‘insiders’ in the political, social, financial and religious networks of Irish life, why did he not have that on the agenda of the recent Irish Global Forum held at Farmleigh?

He knows that for more than a century the networks of Irish life have been going to the Irish diaspora with begging bowls in times of economic stress. I suggest that if he wishes the power of the ‘insiders’ diminished that he offers Irish citizens in the diaspora a vote in Irish national elections.

Most modern democracies with large diasporas have done so. Indeed, some old democracies like Britain and France are now doing the same.

Firstly, this would be a sign of recognition of the contribution made by the diaspora.

Secondly, Irish citizens in the diaspora voting in national elections would hopefully burst the bubble of ‘insider’ personalism that permeates Irish life.

Thirdly, it would give Irish people in the diaspora a sense of inclusion.

Is that too much to hope for?

Bobby Gilmore
Navan, Co Meath

I’ve written about the Irish diaspora previously here, Diaspora, schmiaspora! How about the chickens who came home to roost?, so you can probably guess that based on that article, I am strongly opposed to us providing a vote to the Irish diaspora.

I can’t argue that the letter above may have an attractive proposition to providing the vote to the diaspora as it might dilute the impact of the so-called (by David McWilliams here) “insiders”.

However, what else was the Global Irish Economic Conference organised by the selfsame David McWilliams but one big love-in amongst the “insiders” – both the diaspora and the Irish based?

But that’s really an aside. I’m against providing the vote to the Irish diaspora because they have no true (interest) in how our country is run. The diaspora choose not to live in Ireland, for whatever reason, so why should they be allowed determine the destiny of those who actually do choose to live here (or live here because they don’t have any other options).

The reason that the David McWilliams “insiders” can wield so much power in this country is because those who live here decide to let them.

It takes, I think, about 1.1m people to change the government in this country.

But based on the 2007 election approximately 1.1. people didn’t actually bother to vote at all. That’s enough people to remove the “insiders” completely from Irish life, but those people who have the most to gain by doing so, don’t actually bother.

As the truism, or saying, or whatever goes – “we get the government we deserve”.

On a more positive note though, 507,000 people last year signed up in Facebook to demand a replay for the Ireland v France World Cup playoff game while 46,000 want John Joe from the Late Late Toy Show to fix their clocks.

That’s pretty much half way towards changing how our country is run. It’s a pity so many people just don’t care enough about the things that really matter.


The Irish Government – Lizard Brains

When writing about the current Your Country, Your Call idea generating campaign, I was particularly focused on the fact that out countries leaders (both political and business) have more to gain by maintaining the current status quo than they do in supporting a couple of “truly transformational” ideas that might challenge their comfy position.

Tim Dunne and Maggie Dugan wrote some years ago about what they called “Lizard Brains”. According to them:

The Lizard Brain is concerned with survival. It sits at the base of the skull, at the top of the spine. It’s our old brain. Evolutionists will tell you that we’ve had it since we were – well – Lizards. The Lizard Brain’s reaction to everything, if it has one at all, is limited to the following…eat, attack, run away, or mate.

Recently, on his blog, Seth Godin write about Lizard Brains under the title “Modern Procrastination”:

The lizard brain adores a deadline that slips, an item that doesn’t ship and most of all, busywork.
These represent safety, because if you don’t challenge the status quo, you can’t be made fun of, can’t fail, can’t be laughed at. And so the resistance looks for ways to appear busy while not actually doing anything.

Is there anything more appropriate to describe our current government? And if there was a phrase to best describe the Your Country, Your Call (and Ideas Campaign, and Global Irish Economic Forum) ideas gathering exercise, it’s:

ways to appear busy while not actually doing anything


Maintaining the status quo – Global Irish Economic Forum and Your Country/Your Call

In my post yesterday, Status Report of the Global Irish Economic Forum, I referred to the review of the status report written by Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev.

One point that Dr. Gurdgiev highlighted at the end of his report was as follows:

Which brings me to the revelation that was not made before (to my knowledge) about Farmleigh. In months of preparation for Farmleigh, DofFA took over the lists of invitees, prepared by the idea originators and mercilessly cut out all potential invitees they did not approve of.
From that list gone were a number of public figures very active in policy debate in this country and internationally. They then added a number of those, deemed by the bureaucrats as representative of the Social Partnership. How do I know this? The original owners of the Farmleigh idea actually told me this a week before Farmleigh took place!

So, an idea originally devised by David McWilliams but which enrolled some government involvement, eventually became hamstrung by that government involvement.

And it’s not like anyone could be surprised by this revelation.

And after discovering a couple of weeks ago that the government has effectively funded the €200,000 prize money in the Your Country, Your Call idea generating competition (they’re investing €300,000 of the total €2m fund), we should now be expecting a very strong government involvement/interference in this campaign as well.

As I said in my very first post about YCYC – the status quo that currently exists in this country will only be maintained through this competition – rather than seeing anything of the supposed “truly transformational” ideas they’re looking for.

As the saying goes, “he who pays the piper, calls the tune”. And the piper in this case will ensure that the tune (and the two winning ideas) are not too revolutionary to change the status quo.


Status Report of the Global Irish Economic Forum

I wrote about the Global Irish Economic Forum back around the time it was hosted, Diaspora, schmiaspora! How about the chickens who came home to roost?.

I wasn’t that impressed back then with what it was supposedly intending to achieve or the methods it was going about its task, and upon reading the status report which is now available on the Forum website here, I’m not seeing anything that can convince me that my original scepticism was misplaced.

For a great review of this status report, you should read this blog post from Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev, Why Farmleigh report falls flat.

At the moment, apart from these regional meetings referred to Dr. Gurdgiev, the most developed idea so far seems to be the Global Irish Internet portal being worked on by John McColgan. There’s a post over on Bock The Robber that covers that idea – Riverdance’s McColgan Comes Up with Internet Portal Idea.

The conclusion drawn by Dr. Gurdgiev:

What Farmleigh report does well, then? It shows a deep degree of incompetence and insecurity amongst the political and bureaucratic masters of Ireland Inc. It’s comprehensive lack of new ideas, lack of departure from the status quo are frustrating, especially since we know – many of those who were at Farmleigh last September really do have good ideas.

There’s those words again – the “status quo”.


Are you interested in Irish culture? How would you define it?

Did you attend Culture Night anywhere around the country recently?  Someone asked me in the last few weeks:

Have you any interest in Irish culture?

I was a little taken aback at the question, but even more taken aback that my own initial reaction was actually in the negative. It did get me thinking a lot about the question, and my answer, mainly because I felt a bit guilty about giving such a negative response.

I don’t think it’s right for me to say that I’m not interested in Irish culture – interested yes, but maybe not well practiced? The last Irish poetry I read was for my leaving certificate. The last Irish music CD I had I leant to someone 7 years ago and they haven’t returned it. My spoken Irish has deteriorated much more than my ability to still listen and read.

Maybe, somewhat in my defence, my initial answer could have been to the question – are you interested in traditional Irish culture?

But what then does it mean to be interested in Irish culture in 2009?

The last Irish authored book I read was The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin – but that was a long time ago. But we Irish are famous for our literature and our reading, and I read a hell of a lot of other stuff. Does that count?

We’re also famous for our theatre, but I’ve only once seen an Irish play – Stones in His Pockets, when it was performed in London several years ago. Well, unless you count Alone It Stands. Is a play about Munster rugby part of our culture?

Recently though, purely by coincidence, I’m going to the theatre twice for the Dublin Theatre Festival. I’ve already been to see the Manganiyar Seduction at the Gaiety which I sort of enjoyed. However, I’m seriously looking forward to seeing The Birds in the Gate. Does going to see non-Irish theatre in the world famous Irish theatres count as having an interest in Irish culture?

We talked about this a little over lunch during the week at work where one of my colleagues asked if going to the pub counted as having an interest in Irish culture? Isn’t the “Irish pub” part of our culture, no matter that we may or many not like that association. How about going to the pub, but not drinking Guinness – still cultural?

How about the fact that I’ve no time for U2 – putting them up there with the Dubliners, the Jurys Irish Cabaret and Daniel O’Donnell. But I’ll listen to Christy Moore till the cows come home? I lament the demise of an Emotional Fish and A House, but Turlough O’Carolan is nothing more than a bad school memory. Where does that leave me in the Irish music cultural stakes?

Or where does having the misfortune of being a Mayo GAA supporter fit in? Is going to Gaelic football and hurling games a sign that you show interest in the sporting aspect of Irish culture? But where would watching Irish teams playing the foreign game of rugby fit into that culture?

Our Irish Culture took centre stage at the recent Global Irish Economic Conference in Farmleigh where Dermot Desmond, in particular, highlighted its importance in getting us through our current economic travails. Gerry Godley ( of Improvised Music Co and a member of the National Campaign for the Arts) recently wrote an indepth article on this very topic – Five ways culture can save us (though you must remember the angle he’s coming from in much of the article).

I’m going to come back to this topic (and the Global Irish Economic Conference which I wrote about here previously) in a couple of ways in the coming weeks, but I’d love to know what your thoughts are when it comes to what it might mean to you to be able to say that you have an interest in Irish culture in 2009?


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