Damn Right They’re Wrong


From top: Leinster House; Dan Boyle

Traditional decision making immediately casts aside those whose views haven’t convinced. Engagement should be more than a one off process.

Dan Boyle writes:

In the sadder half hours of my life, I listen British political programmes on BBC4. Earlier this week I heard a Labour Party MP (the who is irrelevant) state that “the people are always right’.

Are they?

‘The People’ is a collective expression of us as individuals. None of us as individuals is ever always right. Why should our collective expression acquire a quality of absolute wisdom?

Especially if when making such decisions, we are always divided, often deeply so.

That Labour MP was merely repeating what many believe to be a fundamental truth, a truism grounded in ‘common’ sense. That phrase, for all its homespun attachment, has in its overuse become an oxymoron, rarely ever being common or sensible.

Is this to question the central tenet of democracy? I don’t believe it is, but it is to question the fallacy that a decision, once made, is an absolute for eternity.

Every decision made should be subject to review, analysis and ongoing criticism. Neither does this mean that, on being made, decisions should be treated dismissively. All such decisions are valid at the time and in the context they have been made.

Those who have lost such arguments are not necessarily wrong, what they have failed to do is be able to convince at that particular time.

What we should be doing is giving consideration to weighted majorities, with built in review mechanisms. This, I believe, will help better decisions be made, while also getting such decisions implemented more quickly.

Traditional decision making immediately casts aside those whose views haven’t convinced. Engagement should be more than a one off process.

In the early days of The Greens in Ireland, we experimented with consensus decision making. It was deeply frustrating, a charter for those whose self-identity is wrapped up in their ability to create havoc. Those type of activists now have more comfortable political homes in which to indulge their persistent negativity.

But naysayers are not the only result of consensus decision making. For all it frustrations, it also gives space to some thoughtful, but minority views, that question the speed and direction of decisions. In ‘straight’ decision making, the views of such individuals tend to get steamrollered over.

The motivations behind any decision should always be questioned. The who benefits and why always kept to the fore.

Any victory should be seen as temporary and transient. Being on the right side of an argument, does not and should not, equate with being on the right side of history.

Democracy is a process not an end in itself. Too often we consider the who whilst forgetting the what, and more particularly the why. We should decide to do something about that. But how?

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursdyay. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

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21 thoughts on “Damn Right They’re Wrong

  1. bisted

    ‘…all animals are equal but some are more equal than others’…sounds like that’s what you are believe Dan…

    1. Dan Boyle

      No. That’s what you believe I believe. I respect though your right to believe that.

    2. Increasing Displacement

      100% bisted

      Absolute wisdom is a load of £$*%£ just like democracy
      The more equal always win out

  2. Gorev Mahagut

    Nice article. I think a big problem with politics is that decision-making has become an adversarial process where the aim is to beat the other party. Politicians stop saying what they think, and only say what they think will be popular. Then everyone starts to distrust politicians.

    At least with consensus-based discussions, the us-against-them feelings are discouraged. People can state their positions honestly and simply because they aren’t under pressure to convince.

    Politics should be more about preserving trust and understanding than making decisions. If you have strong community, action will follow in good time. Decisions without unity makes for a divided society.

    1. ollie

      Decision making is based on party loyalty only.
      You only have to look at Kenny’s resignation speech and Vradkar’s press release.
      Kenny thanks his family, the party and the people of Mayo. No mention of the citizens of Ireland
      Vradkar talks about service to the party and the public, in that order.
      He uses the word “party” 5 times and “Fine GAel” 5 times. Oh and Kenny brought stability to the Dáil, to Government, and to Ireland, in that order,
      No reference to the battered Citizen, to those who have really suffered under Kenny’s reign. All about the party.

      1. Cian

        The ‘battered Citizen’ was going to suffer regardless of who was in power for the last 6 years. The country was broke and we had to stop spending.

        The only decision the government could do was decide ‘which’ citizen would suffer least (they chose pensioners) and ‘which’ citizens would suffer most (??).

  3. ollie

    “The motivations behind any decision should always be questioned. The who benefits and why always kept to the fore.”
    Yet when you are questioned about the wrong decision to give reduced motor tax to diesel vehicles or a grant to someone who can afford to spend n a car is given a rebate of 5k from the taxpayer you refuse to explain the rationale.

    ‘…all animals are equal but some are more equal than others’ rings true.

    1. ollie

      “The motivations behind any decision should always be questioned. The who benefits and why always kept to the fore.”
      Perhaps you could follow your own philosophies by answering these questions Dan:
      Who benefited from the promotion of diesel cars and specifically the deterioration in air quality as a consequence?
      Who benefited from the decision to give a wealthy man €5k towards his new €150,000 car?

  4. Zuppy International

    The people are sovereign (politicians always forget this).

    Democracy is a form of mob rule.

    The Greens are on the irrevocable slide into electoral irrelevance, leaving the rest of us to clean up their mess.

        1. Dan Boyle

          It was an observation. I wasn’t asked a question. If you must make contentious comment do use the right terminology. The anger is yours not mine.

    1. classter

      Democracy may be a form of mob rule but is is a heavily modulated form of mob rule


    always get the feeling danny plays out the debate on both sides in his nogin while waiting for the luas or some such, and then has a semi & wee grin to himself as he has his ‘gotcha’ moment..lol

    ffs sake, the whole motion is a work of fiction in the first instance..creating web content with a political buzzfeed style questionnaire

Comments are closed.

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