Cabinet members wages increased in 1996, again in 2000, and again this year they get a pay rises of 7.5%.
Now Bertie's weekly pay is almost ¤4,807. This is fifteen times the pay of someone on the minimum wage, eight times the average pay of someone working in a local authority or of a man on the average industrial wage. Prison Officers, with a weekly wage of ¤1,106.71 are the highest paid public sector workers according to the Central Statistics Office (www.cso.ie) yet they still earn four times less than Bertie.
These pay levels put Bertie and his cabinet colleagues into a small elite group of high earners. And the decisions made by this wealthy cabal reflect their class position. They don't use the public health service, they send their children to private schools, they know they won't have to depend on state pensions and they can afford to hire private childcare for their children.
So it is no surprise that when they talk about healthcare, ducation, care of the young and the old they talk about tax breaks to people so they can buy more private services. More private services means less spending on public services which also means that the only way to access basic services is to go private, which most of us can't afford. We would like a world where public services are available to all, not just those with money. In this day and age it is scandalous that many Irish people don't go to their GP when they are sick because they can't afford the cost of the visit.
In fact, when you look closely at how Ireland is run, you discover that the unelected friends of the politicians, who are also members of the wealthy elite, govern much of our society. The National Roads Authorities oversees the Irish road networks. Its members are unelected, appointed by government.
The Competition Authority is the body that decides whether business mergers can occur. Its members are unelected, appointed by government. Dublin's urban regeneration projects, whether it be in Temple Bar, the Docklands, or the Digital Hub in the Liberties are all run by unelected boards of managements.
Unelected bodies 'quangos', have responsibility for a wide share of Irish society from the health service, to tourist promotion, to inland fisheries. And who gets appointed to these boards? The wealthy and the powerful. For example, Fianna Fail appointed their friend, the builder Joe Burke as chair of the Dublin Port Tunnel and Bertie recently appointed his ex to the National Consumer Agency. Is it any wonder that Ireland ranks 17th out of 146 countries on the Global Corruption Index.
As opposed to dodgy politicians and their well heeled mates. Anarchists have a very different idea of democracy. We are in favour of direct democracy rather than representative democracy. With representative democracy people are elected to 'represent' the views of the general population. We know from bitter experience that in reality politicians ignore the wishes of the electorate for the three years following a election.
A cunning party like Fianna Fail spends the year preceding a election doling out grants and funding in the hope of buying a couple of votes, only to cut-back drastically once elected. The bottom line is that under the sham democracy we live in today, there is nothing much we can do if a politician displeases us, bar wait for the opportunity to vote for his or her equally self-interested colleague at the next general election.
Direct democracy is different. It is a democracy from the bottom up, where people have the meaningful opportunity to participate in decisons that affect them. Here rather than electing people to represent us on all possible issue that may come up, people gather in assemblies, whether at work or in the local community, to discuss and decide issues that concern them.
When the issues concern people from different areas or workplaces, delegates are mandated to represent us only on the particular issue that is under discussion. So for example, if a decision needs to be made on a new road or on hospital funding, each local area would discuss and decide on proposals, and these proposals would be taken to a meeting of delegates from all the relevant areas.
If the issue is a controversial one, the delegates can bring the discussion back to the local level with the ideas of other communities and the debate continued again. This sounds slow, but in reality, as the decision making with regard to the Shell pipeline in Mayo illustrates, its inclusivity is far more efficient than depending on alleged experts, profiteering capitalists, and corrupt politicians. Furthermore, delegates would not be paid anymore than anybody else. And unlike the politicians in Dail Eireann, they would be re-callable. That is, if a local area is unhappy with the work done by the delegates, they would have the power to immediately replace them. This is the world where people would have the power instead of a minority of very wealthy, self serving politicians.
This edition is No88 published in Sept 2005