It’s time for a church hall tea party

Oct 28th, 2010 | By | Category: Ireland

David McWilliams came to speak in our parish three weeks ago.  A special moment for a small country parish, we don’t often have nationally known speakers.  But it was not his presence that has endured, it was his message.  The message about who was responsible for our problems; the message that we should not bear the cost of the banks’ debts; the message that we should focus on the things that we are at good at doing and be allowed to work our way back to prosperity; they struck a chord in a community of working farmers and small business people who gained little from the Tiger years and who are now expected to contribute to tha bailout of the bankers and the developers.

A comment last week was that he needed to start taking his message out to church hall meetings; he needed to go and talk to ordinary people where they gathered.  “Do you think he would do that?”

Who knows?  Who else outside of Dublin is bothering to acknowledge the anger and frustration of the people picking up the tab for the arrogant greed of Fitzpatrick, Fingleton and the others of that exclusive group who have bankrupted the country?  Who is there who would listen to the pain of the small people who are never going to go to Dublin to march because who is there to feed the animals if they go?

Would he go out to church and community halls to talk to a hundred here and a hundred there?  To townlands with names unpronouncable by BBC newsreaders? To people with accents that would be mocked by the Dublin 4 cognoscenti? To talk to big men with quiet voices to whom no-one listens? To hear the voices of women compelled to work while trying to raise families and provide unpaid assistance to their husbands?

There is a need for an Irish equivalent of the Tea Party.  Not a group fundamentalist reactionaries, but a radical Centre Party capable of galvanising opinion and bringing a realignment of Irish politics.  It is time for an end to the nonsense of parties based on Civil War politics, where old family loyalties allow the persistence of nepotism, cronyism and clientilism.  Change will not come from national platforms, change will come by going to the grass roots of Irish politics and telling people that enough is enough: if they vote for the Civil War parties they will get more of the same; if they want change, then they must vote for change.

McWilliams, and those who share his radical dissent from the politics of corruption and attacking the poor to pay for the rich, need to become the Church Hall Party, or whatever image captures the sense that we will no longer tolerate being trodden on by our political establishment.

What about it, David?  What about doing what you did in our little parish and talking to people up and down the country?  What about taking on our political elite in their own backyards? Facing down the TDs who boast about the strokes they have pulled for their constituents, the county councillors whose expenses exceed the wages of many working people?  What about talking about a new Republic?  What about drinking tea in our church halls?

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  1. Ian – I’m with you and David – Thought his article last week in Indo if I recall re freezing mortgages to stimulate economy was spot on – It is time for an intelligent revolt!

  2. The opposition party is behaving as though it realizes that the cosy cartel between themselves and FF is in danger of being swept away, agreeing with the Government’s philosophy because ideological differences might open up real political discourse and an end to civil war politics. We need a new Republic, and it’s not going to come from those whose comfort and secirity depends on the perpetuation of the old one. If David McWilliams could at least start a debate, we might see some changes.

  3. I’ve been away so I’ve just read this post. FF are scared of losing their hold on power (sorry, perks) and some of their backbenchers are suggesting a merger with FG while others are talking about changing the term of the current Dail to seven years. (The constitution states that a Dail term can be set by law but must not exceed seven years. The current five years can be changed.) Some FG backbenchers were so scared of Labour’s rise in the opinion polls a few months ago that they were talking about a deal with FF! By the way, THE opposition party?

  4. Given that there is no prospect of Labour gaining power alone, the only way of breaking the Civil war duopoly is for a new Centre Party based on republican and constitutional reforming principles.

  5. I thought that was part of the original PD philosophy – Republican and Reforming – and look where they have brought us.

  6. Sows’ ears and silk purses come to mind!

    It needs a one term, one-off party to break the mould and push through a raft of constitutional reforms. A Fine Gael-Labour colaition will simply perpetuate the present broke system.

  7. The political parties have largely wasted the opportunity presented by the recession. Instead of taking the opportunity to look at the sort of society we want to have they are largely keen on a rush to get back to business as usual. This doesn’t need to be the case, there are voices calling for an new type of society, one with the reforms you are looking for and one that can be more equal, fair and just. You have probably heard about the Claiming our Future project which aims at the sort of changes you would like to see. It takes a moderately Social Democratic stand on most issues, not a centrist one. After all, FF and FG are centrist parties and the PDs promised reforms. Look where they have us today.

    I agree that an FG/Labour coalition of the type we’ve had in the past would change little. However, if the balance was changed from the 3:1 ratio of FG to Labour seats that these coalitions had to a more even split or with Labour having more seats than FG things might change.

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