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Image from the book cover of Fintan O'Toole's "Enough is Enough"

‘Mad as hell’ journalist stokes huge petition drive

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Image from the book cover of Fintan O'Toole's "Enough is Enough"

Two days ago Irish Times columnist, Fintan O'Toole, launched an online petition to show that the Irish public will not support any candidate who does not commit to radical reform.

The petition has already received thousands of signatures and is gaining momentum by the hour, with Mr. O'Toole tweeting that "the petition is flying...We need 100,000 to really make it count."

The ten point plan that O'Toole is encouraging people to sign is a simplified summary of the ‘Fifty Ideas For Action’ in his new book "Enough Is Enough; How to Build a New Republic" and is set out on www.fintanotoole.ie.

"1. SHARE THE PAIN
No one paid from the public purse should earn more than €100,000 during the period of the emergency.

2. PUT THE PARISH PUMP BACK IN THE PARISH
Real local democracy, paid for by local taxes, and using direct democracy at every level, must be established.

3. END CLIENTILISM
Change the electoral system that turns TDs into constituency fixers. Replace it with a mix of direct election and a list system similar to that used for the Scottish parliament.

4. CUT THE FAT
Reduce the Dail to 100 members. Either transform the Senate within 12 months into a genuine forum for civic society or abolish it.

5. MAKE PARLIAMENT WORK.
Stop the use of the guillotine system to pass laws that have not been scrutinised. Give Dail committees the powers to examine proposals for spending before it happens and to hold those who spend public money accountable. Make senior public servants responsible for their decisions and actions.

6. BRING WOMEN INTO POLITICS
Cut public subsidies to political parties unless at least 30 per cent of their candidates are female.

7. END IMPUNITY
Conduct an urgent review of company law to ensure that white collar criminals are brought to justice.

8. GET MONEY OUT OF POLITICS
Ban all significant private donations to political parties. Make parties publish annual accounts. Register and control lobbyists. Protect whistleblowers.

9. RESTORE THE RIGHT TO KNOW
Bring back the original Freedom of Information Act.

10. NO MORE CRONYISM
Make all appointments to State and public bodies open to public competition and Dail scrutiny. Ban any individual from being a director of more than three companies or public bodies."

The online petition follows a march that took place on Saturday to demonstrate opposition to the government's austerity plan, organized by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).

O'Toole addressed the crowd of approximately 50,000 people outside Dublin's GPO, after they marched from Wood Quay, crossing Ormond Quay and down Bachelor's walk.

He began with a reminder of Irish history, "On one side of this street, in 1913, James Larkin was arrested as he addressed the workers of Dublin who had stood up to claim their dignity as citizens rather than serfs. On the other side, in 1916, Ireland was declared to be a republic under the control of its own citizens."

Today, we gather here to reclaim that sense of citizenship. As the fate of our country is being decided, it is a case of mind over matter. They don’t mind, and we don’t matter. Our rulers have no shame, and they believe we have no voice."

He added that "they tell us we have no choice, that there is no alternative. A government with no mandate will do a deal with people we have never elected."

"On the one side, we will borrow yet more billions to bail out the banks. On the other, there will be war on the poor and the vulnerable: a savage assault on the minimum wage, cuts in welfare payments and attacks on basic services for the old and the young, the sick and the disabled."

He finished his speech by saying that "we are here today to say that we are not economic units whose only function is to behave ourselves and pay off the gambling debts of our masters. We are not children who must take our medicine or be sent to bed without our supper. We are not subjects, we are citizens. And we want our republic back."

Mr. O'Toole, who was master of ceremonies for the protest, also lead the crowd in a one minute chant of "out, out, out" to the government.

Although the business group Chambers Ireland said the demonstration was “out of touch with reality”, this did not stop O'Toole from setting out his ten measures for reform as part of his online petition.

O'Toole sees the IMF bailout as a step back in time for Irish sovereignty.  “You can chart that via the foundation of the State, the expansion of powers within the Commonwealth, the 1937 Constitution, getting back the Treaty Ports, the declaration of the Republic, all those big moments. And this is really the first time since the establishment of the first Dáil in 1919 that things have gone in the other direction.

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