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The Irish Problem of Cohesion: When solidarity becomes groupthink

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  • #2


    Jim2007 wrote: »
    In other words, we’re Switzerland. And being a citizen of both and having worked on political campaigns in both I’d say the thinking is very much the same. To the best of my knowledge they are the only countries in Europe at least with a Sovereign People, although Ireland is stricter in that the constitution provides no circumstances in which parliament can ignore the outcome of a referendum.

    The environment produces a different type of voter, one who thinks on two levels - strategic: how I want the country run in the long term and tactical: who do I want to run the country in the short term. That means the questions are different, the sources of information relied on are different and voters are comfortable with voting the party line on one matter and against the party on another, even on the same day.

    It also produces a different kind of politician, one who knows there are limits to their powers, where by you can’t make the big strategic decisions without bringing not only the party, but a large section of the population in general with you. And that requires a certain level of cooperation no matter what.

    Also having the big decisions owned by the people ensures that you don’t see the big divisions we’ve seen open up along party lines else where. And it makes the decisions easier to change. It’s much easier for the people to change their minds, revisit issues etc when the decision is not owned by the politicians.

    Ireland and Switzerland are about consensus politics and so decisions on the strategic issues happen slowly but are widely supported.

    I broadly agree with what you have outlined. I think, however, that when a particular set of consensus views exist in a country for a long time they may become self-reinforcing.

    A lot of voters may not follow politics closely on a day to day basis. If there is groupthink and parties appear similar then they will not be exposed to different ideas or the possibility of voting a different way.

    Nearly all Irish media portray the Tory Party and Donald Trump as 'bad' leading to negative opinions of them among people who know little about their actual policies.


  • #2


    B2021M wrote: »
    I broadly agree with what you have outlined. I think, however, that when a particular set of consensus views exist in a country for a long time they may become self-reinforcing.

    A lot of voters may not follow politics closely on a day to day basis. If there is groupthink and parties appear similar then they will not be exposed to different ideas or the possibility of voting a different way.

    Nearly all Irish media portray the Tory Party and Donald Trump as 'bad' leading to negative opinions of them among people who know little about their actual policies.
    That's not necessarily the result of PRSTV, though. We see exactly the same phenomenon in the UK, with FPTP, where voters expressed approval of the policies of Labour (under Corbyn), but only if they weren't presented as Labour policies. Because they saw Labour as "bad", they rejected the exact same policies when presented to them as Labour policies.

    There's a general observation, not confined to Ireland, that politics has become more "tribal" and identity-driven, and therefore more polarised. And we only have to look at the UK and the US to see that this hasn't made for better government. In Ireland we aren't immune to this, but our political/electoral system counters the worst effects of it by linking political success with the ability to make agreements, build consensus and work across party lines.


  • #2


    B2021M wrote: »
    I broadly agree with what you have outlined. I think, however, that when a particular set of consensus views exist in a country for a long time they may become self-reinforcing.

    A lot of voters may not follow politics closely on a day to day basis. If there is groupthink and parties appear similar then they will not be exposed to different ideas or the possibility of voting a different way.

    Nearly all Irish media portray the Tory Party and Donald Trump as 'bad' leading to negative opinions of them among people who know little about their actual policies.

    I rarely read Irish media I read all sorts of media and have yet to see any Tory polices or trump polices that were good for anyone but the aforementioned.

    Am I an Irish media consumer shill ? Or just fully aware of self interested narcissists given tastes of power with no interest in actually governing .


  • #2


    I'm not aware of any proof, and there probably isn't any since records of educational attainment weren't collated until well into the 20th century. Whatever records do exist are disparate, and impossible to rely upon.

    Having said that, it stands to reason. If this person is talking about emigration to America, it's generally accepted that the poorest people in Irish society were typically unable to emigrate to the United States, or at least until the late 19th century. It follows that the families who could afford to emigrate a child were also able to maintain children in schools, instead of using them as agricultural labourers or having them go out and work as such.

    Emigration to England probably wasn't even affordable to the poorest people, who lived hand-to-mouth during the height of Irish emigration. I think it's reasonably fair to deduce that the lower-middle class (by the standards of the time) were most likely to emigrate and also most likely to have better education than their peers.

    As for hard evidence, there is probably none.

    I’m pretty sure the very poorest did emigrate in the 20C. They went to work on sites and so on during Britain’s 30 year post war boom. Getting the price of a bus and boat ticket to the U.K. wasn’t that prohibitive. The only time this wasn’t true was the 80s-90s emigration patterns. It was hard for graduates to get jobs then.

    The evidence is probably out there, somewhere.


  • #2


    listermint wrote: »
    I don't have problems with it other than I haven't a clue what it's trying to convey ?

    Well I’ve no way of correcting that unless you ask more questions.


  • #2


    What is interesting about that it was only when the middle class has to emigrated it started to be discussed as a problem in the media, and in wider discourses when the poor were emigrating it was presented as either their own fault or it was ignored. As for the general point, there has never been a deeply developed right or left in Irish politics and I don't see it developing now but you never know.



  • #2


    That is, in my opinion, the best post in the series. I think it fair to tie the cohesiveness etc of Irish society (or lack thereof) to the laws and referenda passed by the legislature over the years. The electoral system is thus fundamental.

    Since independence I think only one momentous event had overwhelming consequences - the setting up of RTE. For years, in its heyday, public debate was shaped and sculpted by the national broadcaster into a consensus. With the advent of new media including social media that consensus has been smashed, never to be re instated.



  • #2


    RTE (or TE as it was then) imho did almost nothing to frighten the horses. They had (still have) the Angelus every day and until quite recently bishops etc. were fawned over and never questioned. To this day not one of them has ever been properly grilled on air over the orchestrated cover-up of child abuse. Radharc (a series actually produced by the RCC "Catholic Communications Office" not RTE, and presented by priests) lasted for 35 years until 1996! This sort of programming wasn't (at least initially) holding our society back, it reflected where it was, but it became increasingly anachronistic and divorced (!) from reality over the years.

    Gay Byrne was as controversial as RTE was prepared to get in the 60s/70s/80s, and he remained a pretty conservative practising Catholic all his life. But just allowing the odd dissenting opinion to be heard was enough for him to be kept only on a 3-month contract for most of his career, and TLLS came very close to cancellation a few times. Bishop and the Nightie, the other incident where the bishop of Galway was called a moron. I wasn't born then so all we have are the complaining letters etc. to go on but it would be interesting to know what ordinary people really thought then. B&N incident probably went quite some way towards making ordinary people realise how silly and out of touch, even then, the hierarchy were.

    RTE mainly showed very tame domestic content (The Spike being one of the very rare exceptions, and it got canned) mixed in with US westerns and cop shows. It wasn't until RTE2 came along in 1978 that much of the country got to see some contemporary British content - including Coronation Street and (shudder!) Top of the Pops!

    In the 80s more and more areas got 'deflectors' or cable TV and outside influences came to areas they'd never been before. Satellite TV by the late 90s was popular across the whole country and IMHO did a hell of a lot to liberalise rural Ireland's attitudes.

    The controversial (but weren't really that controversial when the votes were actually counted) 2015 and 2018 referendums showed that the rural / urban divide barely exists any more. Even in terms of age breakdown according to the exit polls, a lot of 70 and 80-somethings have completely turned around their attitudes compared to those same people 30 and 40 years ago. We used to be a very insular country and thankfully that is long gone. We are not exceptional. We don't want "Irish solutions to Irish problems." We used to regard ourselves as a great exception in the Western world - exceptionally pious - now we are really not much different and have similar problems (but as I said recently in another thread, I'd much rather have the problems of affluence than the problems of poverty.)

    Are we there yet?



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