In the Irish Times of 5 January 2016 Fintan O’Toole has an article headed “Genuine local democracy part of the solution to flooding“. He points out that
- in 2004 the Irish Times property supplement showed a photograph [we are not told whether it was part of an ad or advertorial or of a critique of property development] showing a sign advertising for sale a flooded field that had been zoned for residential use
- in 1997 a resident of Clonmel detailed how the town’s natural flood defences had been destroyed
- in 1999 a man in Ennis blamed the flooding of his house on the granting of too many planning permissions
- in 2000 3500 Clonmel residents objected to building on flood plains
- nitwitted local councillors didn’t care.
He concludes that
As flooding gets worse, we will have to spend enormous amounts of money on engineering solutions. But in fact one part of the solution doesn’t cost any money at all. It’s called listening. Or, to give it its political title, it’s called genuine local democracy. Top-down, very expensive technocratic measures may have to be part of the response. But they will only work in a political culture that has eyes to look at the land and ears to listen to what people know about it.
Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. The article provides no evidence that a majority of the citizens — in any local authority area, Dáil constituency or other political unit — shares the erudite and enlightened views of those who write letters to, or columns in, the Irish Times. In fact, given that the citizens have, over more than one hundred years, continued to elect large numbers of nitwits to the local authorities and, for almost a century, to the Dáil, it seems unlikely that democracy — genuine, local or otherwise — will ever produce the right answers.
Which may explain why so much power now resides elsewhere, in the hands of experts and courtiers, and why elected representatives are reduced to throwing the occasional tantrum, providing tea and sympathy and making empty promises that then come back to haunt them.