Democracy is under attack in Ireland, as the bizarre goings on in the Dáil this week reveal. Over the past year TDs have voted for progressive laws that could make a real difference in people’s lives.

These include:

  • An Anti-Eviction bill would have prevented landlords from throwing people out of their accommodation in order to push up rents for new tenants.
  • A Climate Emergency Bill would have stopped further exploration for fossil fuels. 
  • A Medicinal Cannabis Bill would have given access to people who are suffering and in pain.
  • A Sex Education Bill would have forced schools to give people objective sex education.

But, even though these passed by democratic vote and should have become law, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are collaborating to block them. The bills were voted through the crucial second stage and were due to be scrutinised at committee stage before becoming law – but then further debate was banned.

The political establishment have used an obscure article in the Irish constitution to claim that if any cost is imposed on the state, then opposition TDs have cannot propose laws. The Fianna Fáil Ceann Comhairle agrees with the Fine Gael led government on this strategy  – and just bans further discussion, even though a majority of TDs vote for new laws.

But most of these bills do not even involve a cost to the state. 

A ban on fossil fuel exploration, for example, might hurt big oil and gas companies – but there would be no cost to the government. A measure to stop evictions would upset landlords – but it would not cost the state.

The right-wing parties hate many of the proposals of Solidarity-People Before Profit but, sometimes, they are too afraid to vote against them because they know they are popular.

So they resort to undemocratic measures instead. They are far worse than Boris Johnson who prorogued the British parliament for five weeks. The Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil alliance have stopped 55 bills which had already received a majority vote.

This week, People Before Profit moved a motion to change standing orders to stop the Ceann Comhairle blocking bills. But guess what happened?

 He blocked the motion to stop him blocking new laws.

We are witnessing a serious attack on democracy. The election of Solidarity-People Before Profit TDs has upset the cosy arrangements of Dáil Eireann. It has caused the political elite to reveal their real attitude – a contempt for democracy.

There will be a protest this evening at Dáil Éireann at 5:30pm against this attack on democracy.

Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin is the People Before Profit candidate for the Dundrum ward in Dublin Rathdown. He is a musician, a Psychology graduate and a native Irish speaker. Eoghan is part of a newly politicising generation of young activists who are no longer willing to accept a political system that allows thousands of people to remain homeless, that leaves tens of thousands of people on hospital waiting lists, that leaves asylum seekers languishing in the glorified prisons that are the Direct Provision system, and that is doing nothing to stop an existential threat to the human species due to climate change. The water charges and repeal movements have shown over the last few years that people power can win positive changes, and Eoghan believes we can draw inspiration from these victories in other struggles. As a Psychology graduate, Eoghan has a major interest in mental health, and is particularly concerned with a system that is a breeding ground for mental distress. With people now being forced to work longer hours, experiencing mortgage distress, paying exorbitant rents, childcare and other costs, and with almost 800,000 people living in poverty, it is little wonder that we are experiencing a mental health crisis. While the increased awareness of mental health issues in recent years is welcome, it has not come with any significant action on the part of the government to improve the situation. Eoghan believes the fight for improved mental health is two-faceted: We need to fight for better services, but we must also fight for a better society that provides people with their needs and allows them to flourish, explore their own creativity, and enjoy their lives. Eoghan has been heavily involved in campaigns for housing, repeal of the 8th amendment, ending direct provision and many other issues over the last few years. He believes that real change can only come through grass roots campaigns from below and if elected, he will use his position as a platform for progressive ideas and to further build these campaigns.

© 2020 People Before Profit