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Lessons to be learned from Irish Government’s lack of leadership


03 Dec 2010


EU Priorities 2020

03 December 2010, Brussels – That the present Irish government mismanaged the benign economic conditions that prevailed, and ultimately left the country unprepared for the subprime crisis in 2008, is not news. More relevant is to question how the political system of the Republic of Ireland, and its manipulation by the Fianna Fáil party, left that country so vulnerable to the excesses of neoliberal globalisation and the catastrophic crash which followed. David Kitching, of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), does just that.

Kitching, in Rocky Road: On the Political Origins and Consequences of the Crisis in Ireland, points out that the Irish case provides valuable lessons for the rest of Europe on the necessity of real political leadership for healthy democracies. He references Tony Judt, the British historian and essayist who, in his final book Ill Fares the Land, speaks of the “unbearable lightness of politics” and the poor standard of leaders in the western world today.

Ireland is the example par excellence of the failure to achieve standards of excellence in public office. Kitching uses the Irish case to demonstrate how damaging poor leadership can be to political discourse in modern democracies. He argues that the failure of Brian Cowen’s government to communicate with the Irish public, and even going so far as lying to them, has done nothing to garner trust in him. Coupled with the adherence to the orthodox analysis handed down by a conservative European Commission and ECB, the situation now threatens to push a wedge between Irish citizens and the European institutions to which they had been well disposed in the past. The same could be in the offing for future recipients of “tough medicine” from the IMF/ECB.

Not only does he fear a disillusioned Irish citizenry turning their backs on Europe, he also worries about the consequences of discontent with the current political system and the alternatives that might be offered, “In a country that has never had a strong hard right tradition, such a prospect raises serious concerns not only for Irish political culture but for similar potential developments right across the European Union.”

He calls for the restoration of a “normative character to Irish and European politics” so that citizens can once again trust their representatives. This, Kitching says, will involve the remarriage of politics, economics and society in our public sphere throughout Europe. In future leaders, it will require intelligence and courage.

You can find the study by David Kitching in attachment.

For more information please contact:
Tomas Sweertvaegher
Ogilvy Public Relations
+32-2-545 6547

About the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS)
The Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) is a political foundation based in Brussels. FEPS is an incubator for fresh ideas and embodies a new way of thinking on the social democratic, socialist and labour scene in Europe. It puts fresh and progressive thinking at the core of its actions. These actions will be to debate, reflect, train and communicate. For more information please visit the website:  For the online press room please click here.


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