“We’ve lost a key part of our sovereignty for the next four or five years at least. It’s a terrible, terrible day for the country.”
The idea behind the Enough is Enough petition is that the government does not want to change itself so a massive civic movement of people putting pressure on the system is needed.
“The only answer I have is that no-one can do it but us. It’s not going to come from within the elite; the governing culture is not interested in reforming itself to anything like the radical extent necessary."
“I’m being kind of deliberately optimistic here but say you got 300,000 people to sign up to something saying we’re not going to vote for anyone who doesn’t accept the need to do these things, that would have an effect.”
While conducting research for his book The Irish Times columnist noticed a growing disillusionment with the leaders of Ireland.
“People’s sense of crisis has deepened,” he said. “It was possible last year to believe that by this year we would be beginning to see some kind of economic stabilization and that you could then chart out a way forward, but this time I found it very difficult to find anyone who has faith in anything we’re being told.
“The problem is our democracy has imploded and only citizens can rebuild that democracy themselves."
He added that his new book and the ten points that have been taken from it to form this petition are his way of taking action. "I’m just desperately trying to articulate some sense of what a way forward might be, but none of it is worth a barrel of spit if it’s not a part of a process of people getting engaged themselves.”
O'Toole's point number 2 suggests putting the parish pump back into the parish, meaning that more power should be invested in local government.
"One of the fundamental problems with our system is that we have very little real power at local level. What happens is everything gets pushed up the system so you get parish pump politics at national level and a whole attitude to national politics that has proved to be disastrous."
He stated that “there’s no point in having a new system of local government if it’s just a reproduction at a minor level of the decrepitude of national government. So this needs to be the place where you have to do your basic experiments in new ways of doing democracy."
“I think the key here is local government without local funding is meaningless, because then it will just be top-down stuff again. You have to re-establish a link between people’s taxation and the decisions that are being made at local level."
“In Ireland, at local level we’re very good at people getting involved and feeling part of the community. The key thing is to try and translate that into a way of doing politics. If you could get half the amount of energy around local politics as you have around local football teams we’d have a fantastic local democracy.”
However, O'Toole admits that the political structures that are holding us back are also a product of our own society.
“We invented machine politics,” O’Toole stated. “The first place in the world where you had mass democracy was Ireland. Daniel O’Connell invented mass democracy machine politics where you had every parish in Ireland organized.
“You had literally millions of people actively engaged in a political organization. There was no parallel for that anywhere else for at least another 50 years. Even people who were poor, relatively uneducated, in some cases barely literate, were able to ‘do’ politics, their system worked.
“But the problem is we’re stuck with machine politics; it’s in our social DNA. We know how to do it, we’re used to it; Fianna Fáil is arguably the most successful political machine in Western Europe in the 20th century. Once it took power it very seldom lost it. And we’ve endorsed that and given our blessing to it.
“So you have this machine that has stayed in place. It actually started out with a purpose but now it exists for no purpose other than power and we do have to decide whether we still feel that represents us politically.
“I’m hoping we’re at a key moment where structures and attitudes that have been in place right back to the 19th century will now be kicked away.”
The petition has received 7330 signatures since going live three days ago and continues to rise.
Sign the petition at fintanotoole.ie/petition.