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4 March 1999 Edition

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No reason in the wide earthly world!

By Sean Marlow
So the Dublin government's brilliant master plan to wangle another few bob from the EU has, surprise, surprise, fallen flat on its face. The amazing thing is that it hasn't happened long before now as 26 County politicians have repeatedly prostituted themselves by selling the country for CAP funds, structural funds, transition funds and whatever funds you're having yourself. Needless to say, most of this money went to already rich farmers, meat processors and road builders

But now the cute hoor approach has gone pear shaped. As normally happens in these cases, the opposition Fne Gael and Labour parties have opportunistically blamed Fianna Fail for giving in to blackmail from Jackie Healy-Rae and including Kerry and Clare in the Objective 1 ``region''. And, as normally happens, they are missing the point completely. The main reason that Eurostat gave for turning down Ireland's begging bowl was the government's failure to implement any real devolution of powers to regional government. Indeed there is no regional government in Ireland, north or south, while district councils are treated with contempt by Central (with a capital C) government as the lack of funding and the 3 postponements of the local elections has shown.

Decentralisation of power is an issue on which Sinn Fein has a very strong policy but I'm afraid that not enough people know about it. This is particularly unfortunate at a time when people, not just in the west of both the 6 and 26 counties, but in places like Ballymun, the Bogside and the Shankhill are looking for more control over their own affairs.

At the same time, progressive socialist forces all over the world are trying to find ways to control global corporations with their increasing use of e-commerce on the Internet to avoid paying taxes and even wages - as witnessed by the experience of workers in Apple and Fruit of the Loom. The success of greedy MNCs like Monsanto to ignore consumers' concerns and effectively force us all to unknowingly eat GM maize and soya illustrates the need for a new world order (no, not that one!) which puts people's needs before the super profits of big business.

So we want maximum power for communities at the lowest possible level and at the same time we need to regulate MNCs at a global level. This paradox can be resolved by a multi-layered approach to government with the basic principle that power should be devolved to the lowest possible level that gives ordinary people maximum effective control over decisions that affect their lives.

At the world level reform and strengthening of the UN is badly needed to make it more democratic (removing the veto of the 5 main nuclear weapon states) and more effective on issues like nuclear disarmament, GM foods, global warming, MNC regulation and world poverty and underdevelopment.

At the continental level we should move away from the narrow elitist Fortress Europe ethos of the EU and move towards a more open, co-operative forum which could tackle issues like international pollution (eg Sellafield) and the fair renegotiation of artificial colonial borders in Africa (eg Rwanda, Sudan), the Middle East (eg Palestine, Kurdistan) and even Europe (eg Kosovo, Euskadi, Ireland).

Of course, there is still a need for national governments but many of their centralised powers, especially in Ireland, should be devolved to a lower level. Regional authorities, for example, are mush better placed to govern industrial development, major hospitals, third level education and agriculture. If this type of regional decentralisation had undertaken in Ireland we might have avoided problems such as the rundown and depopulation of counties like Leitrim and Fermanagh and the housing and traffic problems of Dublin and Belfast.

But it is at the local level where maximum power should reside - for the simple reason that local people know best what their needs and abilities are. As Jackie Healy-Rae might say : there is no reason in the wide earthly world why Ballymun, the Bogside and the Shankhill should not have local councils to look after housing, local industry, local health centres and even community policing. A small, but telling, example of the stupidity of lack of local democracy was highlighted in Finglas recently. The local Cappagh Road was being plagued by dangerous joyriding and locals were aware of who was doing the joyriding and where. Finglas SF rep, Dessie Ellis, has tackled the problem and organised a petition on Cappagh Road. This was supported by nearly all the residents but now Dessie will have to go around Dublin Corporation, the Dept of the Environment and the gardai to try to get action taken.

If there had been a District Council in Finglas, action could have been taken long ago as all the local elected reps support the SF position and a local council could have directed local community police to target the joyriders. It could also have taken prompt traffic calming measures and even provided facilities for local youth so than joyriding could have been prevented in the first place.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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