Week 6 – Open Government

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This topic contains 17 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by  Diarmuid Kiernan 2 years, 6 months ago.

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    John Kilkelly

    Since the dawn of the Irish state, we’ve consistently voted for self-serving politicians who fill their own pockets and look after their own. Irish society has a culture of un-accountability when it comes to politicians and in many ways, expect abuse of privilege. It’s fairly evident throughout the country, from small town councils right up to the upper echelons of government, decisions are made to serve interest groups and not the people. Kerry’s pub based Healy-Rae dynasty being a prime example, ‘shell to sea’ another.

    I think this culture stems from our position as a young nation that saw sudden rapid economic growth. Countless years under British rule, followed by decades of oppressive Church influence spawned a public not accustomed with challenging authority. In such a society, those with a brass neck will go a long way, particularly in politics. This culture of unaccountability was further compounded by the Celtic Tiger. As the Church’s influence waned, the natural path would be for the public to grow in confidence and begin to challenge their organisations and institutes. Oddly for Ireland, we largely skipped this process and jumped directly into the cash rich Celtic Tiger. With all the money floating around, there was little need for awkward accounting questions and a sense of apathy towards our politicians ensued. Due to this evolved culture, I’d be very surprised to see Ireland take the lead in participatory government or even open government. I’d expect older states like France, UK, US etc to lead the way in this, with Ireland eventually brought kicking and screaming into the fold. I certainly wouldn’t expect the government to be pro-active in introducing open government. The transparency would be in danger of curing the public’s apathy.

    In regards participatory government, the Irish public’s capacity to consider the greater good is evident in the microcosm of Naas town and its Tesco shopping centre. The store (apparently the biggest Tesco store in Europe) was built a few years ago on a ring road on the outskirts of the town. It is widely blamed by the locals for sucking the life out of the town and bringing about the closure of long established native businesses. Despite the devastating impact the store has had on the town, it continues to be packed to the rafters at all times. Locals are willing to criticise, but the Irish psyche prevails. Nobody wants to be the only eijit paying full whack for their goods, even if it means we lose our town centres. In David Cameron’s Ted talk (if I recall correctly) he mentioned household’s fuel prices; and how transparency can foster competition amongst neighbours to reduce their power bills. This struck a note in the Naas vs Tesco context. All the ‘buy Irish’ campaigns in the world don’t mean a jot if Mrs Murphy thinks Mrs Kelly is buying Polish Potatoes in ALDI for 20 cent cheaper. I believe the Irish public will make the correct choices if they knew their neighbours were doing likewise. But as Cameron alludes, some form of open community on a public platform is required.

    As tempting as it is to put the squeeze on politicians through participatory democracy, the public needs to demonstrate it can make the correct community decisions for itself first. If we learn the right lessons through open community and open government, then we really would be in a position to give the politicians hell!


    Guillaume Van Aelst

    I don’t understand why (if?) the Irish government doesn’t already apply the principles of Open Government or Government 2.0?
    I for one can only see benefits in sharing information in order to empower the citizens to help make the government a better working one. I guess it is hard indeed to change such a big bureaucratic organisation, but I don’t really see the current governments going towards that direction. Wouldn’t it be great to have a kind of governmental social network where we could vote on many small aspects of a Budget, provide some alternatives, where the government could ask for advice from its citizens based on their profile (education, skills…)?


    Diarmuid Kiernan

    If the History of the past couple of decades has taught us anything, is that just how corrupt are Governments have been in the past. So i’m all in favour of a more open and transparent system, which will make the politicians more accountable for their actions. Information empowers people to stand up for their rights.

    The only problems I see by being more open is that sometimes people might misinterpret the information they are given. So a lot work needs to be done on how they present and explain the facts and figures to people.

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