Ireland's magical thinking must end

Ireland's political culture values who you know, not what you know. It's a political system built on nineteenth century model in the twenty first: "I knew your father, you play on the right sports team, sure didn't we go to school together, and wasn't your grandfather on Collin's side."

It's a great way to forge connections - and the Irish love connections - but it turns out, irrefutably, that nepotism is no basis for a system of government.

Nepotism is the system where the otherwise unqualified always land the top jobs. You're in over your head from the outset, so no one can act surprised when you sink.

Ireland clung to this old world system even as, to quote Brian Friel, it no longer matched the landscape of fact. Still we voted for the same familiar faces, over and over, without giving a thought to their fitness for the job. Magical thinking - if it feels right, it is right.

2011 has shown us - for certain and for good - that the otherwise unprepared and  unqualified, no matter how personally charismatic, no matter how well you knew their Ma and Da, will not magically turn out to be otherwise, now that we need them to be.

Our nepotistic political system, where our political leaders actually inherit their jobs, and our failure to confront it, and ask ourselves if it should continue, is at the root of the current crisis, which is the most serious one to have confronted the state since Independence.

It was a long time coming, this reckoning. We were all, in major or minor ways, a part of its creation and we'll all have to be a part of its dismantling.

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