Here we go. The difficult second blog post. Mightn’t be as groundbreaking or as good as the earlier stuff but sure we’ll get through it.
While the Daily Edge often gets a bit of ridicule from the Journal.ie comment warriors for not having serious stories, I always find it’s a good way to get a laugh and to help get rid of the Monday morning blues. I didn’t think I’d find it however in the main news section when I came across a column by Fiachra Ó’Raghallaigh on youth politics in Ireland. If you haven’t read it already, go check it out. If he hadn’t expressed himself as a member of Ógra Fianna Fáil, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was satire. Then when you realise he’s being serious, it’s quite a sobering experience.
Now I’m not going to spend then next few hundred words spouting a vitriolic rant, as Fiachra would call them, after all that’s what the comments section is for. Instead I’d like to highlight some of the points raised in the article which in my view, need to be changed within the way youth and student politics are conducted in Ireland.
“Youth politics isn’t about the sins of the past- it’s about the needs for the future” ran the article title. To me, and to the others I talked to about the article thought it would be a very convenient slogan for Fianna Fáil’s next election campaign as it fits in very well with how their Dáil deputies are conducting themselves in opposition. However for anyone who remembers the past number of years, this type of smug attitude must enrage many.
The article itself seemed to be some form of open letter from Ógra Fianna Fáil to all the Internet haters out there masquerading as an article on youth participation in politics, or more accurately parliamentary politics. From reading I found that Fiachra seemed surprised that political parties seemed to get so much scrutiny, not just from what he calls “ordinary non aligned citizens”, but from other parties as well. What’s more, he speaks of other youth wings receiving such attacking scrutiny from the public for other reasons. While politics can often be a cruel game, the shock that members of political parties along with their youth wings often come under repeated scrutiny, smacks of either gross naivety of how politics is conducted or just the usual delusion we have seen from Fianna Fáil in recent years.
Continuing on we see, what I find a bold statement:
“Ógra Fianna Fáil are not interested in defending the various corruption scandals, the lack of banking regulations and the out-of-control fiscal policy of the boom years. Equally Labour Youth and Young Fine Gael aren’t interested in defending the broken promises that their senior party made prior to the 2011 election, and Republican Youth would never dream of defending Aongus Ó Snódaigh’s inordinate use of ink cartridges or Pearse Doherty’s expenses claims.”
This I found confusing and could be interpreted in two ways. Either Fiachra and his cohorts don’t care about what their party have done in the past and the gross misuse of power over the last two decades and beyond or they don’t want to defend the undefenable and are cutting ties from years of bad policy and austerity. In the wake of not ever seeing or hearing an Ógra Fianna Fáil member condemn either publically or privately the likes of Ahern, Cowen or other architects of our economic ruin, I’m going to go with the former. Ógra Fianna Fáil don’t care about the cute hoor politics by the lads and they’d very much appreciate that we all stopped going on about it.
Further on in the article, he expands on the title, which defends Ógra Fianna Fáil not caring about scandals.
“This is not an excuse for dodging responsibility, but instead meant to highlight an important fact: youth politics shouldn’t be about defending the sins of the past or even the present. Rather it should focus on the needs of the future”.
I think many on the broad left, especially those not in political parties will find that this assessment to be completely wrong. How can we move on and not repeat the same mistakes again and again if we do not actively criticize the mistakes of our politicians and the party’s of which they belong? Youth politics has suffered greatly not due to it seeming ‘uncool’ but because Students’ Unions are becoming nothing more than service providers and joining a youth wing of one of the main parties is seen as hackish careerism. Further more, anyone who attempts to run on a left platform is often branded a ‘crazy’ or ‘nutters’ as populist cosmetic issues take the front in manifestos rather than tackling the more dangerous threat of the continued commercialisation of our campuses. The current way Unions that are members of USI use the ‘lobbying’ tactic and the occasional march around the block has done nothing to stem the flow of austerity and this neo-liberalisation of our education system. This needs to change.
In the desire to look towards the future and their own careers, Fiachra and co are missing the here and now and the problems that are being created. “Irish society badly needs more young people to join and get involved in political parties”. No, Irish society needs more young people to engage in politics itself, but as unified students in a genuine student movement, not as a member of a party/parties that have all been found guilty of selling out citizens. Students can have a political voice outside of a political party that doesn’t involve novelty pledges signed by politicians or SU candidates going around in tiger costumes. Let’s work towards something new rather than rely on the sham that is the state of student politics.