Thursday, 21 May 2009

Election Diary: T- 16: Canvassing and the Commission

Sorry to mention the weather again, but tonight was the first night in a week that it didn't rain on the canvass, and while it was still wet we were thankful of the break.

We're hoping for dry and calm conditions on Friday fortnight to ensure a maximum turnout. Every politician claims to hope for a large turnout but our need for it is pretty clear; the more who show, the more anger is vented against the Government. A low turnout would be beneficial only to Fianna Fáil, whose diehards would retain a higher proportional impact.

Again, tonight, there was a noticeable shift to Labour from those who formerly supported Fianna Fáil - particularly middle-aged and older people. The sheer numbers of those deserting FF is heartening but I sincerely hope their trust in Labour is repaid. Those of us on the left who are such critics of FF politics sometimes forget how many of those who vote FF or FG we will need to convince, along with new voters, in order for us to really 'win' elections.

I was deeply moved by media coverage of the Report of the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse today (good coverage of it in the Irish Times here). Vincent Browne's show tonight was awesome, powerful, tearful TV. I watched it, post canvass, with two other yappers and none of us muttered so much as a word. I did some research and study into abuse in residential institutions and industrial schools in college and remember the physical sickness I felt reading the "Suffer the Little Children" book by Mary Raftery and Eoin O'Sullivan.

The 165,000 victims of this despicable regime - many of whom are now dead, some at their own hands after experiencing such neglect, abuse and trauma; others of whom have left Ireland forever - are those most let down by this country at the nexus of crucial institutions; Church, Government, education, healthcare, the judiciary and others. Politics too let those children down; no more can deference to people in or ideas of power dominate while children suffer. The conduct of the Christian Brothers' during the report - and similar ones - has been disgusting, with non-cooperation at their core of their attitude to the present day. It is disgraceful that over 100 national schools remain in their stead with practically no influence by the State in terms of safety or care.

I look forward to the day when schools are run, like all public services should be, by the people and for the people. The current model, still based on a 19th century idea of non-interventionism by the State and the deference to the two main churches, is just not sustainable and helps neither the children nor the churches themselves. And local government, as far as I am concerned, should be empowered to provide leadership and planning for educational needs in Ireland, as it is elsewhere.