On Wednesday night BBC's "Newsnight" did a segment on the Tea Party movement in America. I'd heard about the Tea Party-ers, but only as a vague protest movement. The other night the BBC put a human face on them, interviewing a small gathering in someone's home in Washington, MO.
When it was over I thought to myself, "nothing like that would ever happen here." I don't know why, but the scene I was witnessing just seemed so American: people in a small town getting together to discuss what they could do to affect national politics. They seemed so determined to make a difference, to influence policy and - they stressed - to ensure that they weren't used and/or abused by one party of the other.
Ireland is only 1/100th the size of America, yet I think most Irish people feel a greater sense of frustration that there is nothing that can be done, that what 'they' (politicians) get up to is out of our control.
Ireland's issues and Irish voters are not the same as America's, so the Tea Party goals would not suit Ireland. Yet, the manner in which the Tea Party movement has channeled frustration with politicians among a segment of the electorate is a model that could be useful here.
The biggest source of anger in Ireland right now is the banks and the government's support for them. The Irish economy is on its knees, barely treading water. The NY Times recently mentioned Ireland as possibly having to default on its obligations, so great are the debts the government has taken on to shore up the banks.
Needless to say, many people are hopping mad that all of us taxpayers have to stump up to save the bankers, all of whom seemed to be coining it during the Celtic Tiger years.
This past week the government announced that they were going to hold an inquiry into what happened with the banks, but the inquiry is going to be held in secret. No tv cameras, no press, no nobody other than those who the government appointed inquiry head asks. The inquiry is expected to be complete by year's end.
There's a general cry out 'whitewash' across the country as everyone knows that the banking problem was a result of bankers' greed (and/or stupidity), developers' greed, regulatory bodies ineptitude and government indifference (or worse) until it was too late. Despite the frustration at the banks, politicians and developers the closest we've come to a protest movement here was when, in a widely applauded move, a man threw eggs at the chairman and chief executive of Allied Irish Banks last May.
If there was a Tea Party type movement Irish people might be able to use that anger to better effect, instead of simply stewing or calling and texting talk radio programs.They might just, perhaps, get the public inquiry and maybe even a banker or two on trial.