The Irish Times (21st April 2007) has, in the person of a regular columnist, condemned an expression of scepticism about politicians (some) from Ryanair.
The offering from the columnist is an unabashed case of special pleading for (those?) politicians.
The case is flawed.
It misleadingly implies, at least, that âself denyingâ? politicians are at a disadvantage, compared to anyone else in society, in representing themselves and their policies to the public. The âself denialâ? consists, allegedly, in the establishment of legislation limiting expenditure by politicians at elections.
Of the Ryanair âcontributionâ? to the election campaign (in full swing, but undeclared) he claims that it is âdamaging to the democratic processâ?.
In the course of making his case he points to the obligation of âthird partiesâ? to register with the Standards in Public Office Commission if they are in receipt of contributions in excess of a certain limit. That limit is tiny, unlike the spending limits to be adhered to by politicians.
He confesses the purpose of the obligation on them to register with the Standards in Public Office Commission was to limit the expression of views and opinions in opposition (yes, in support of also, but he does not mention that) to politicians. What he fails to say is that the legislation is protective not only of politicians but of specific politicians.
He identified the âthird partiesâ? he or his political friends had had in mind: trade unions, lobby groups, community organisations. He fails to mention that the definition of âthird partiesâ? was much more extensive than that. It covers everbody other than a politician.
âpolitical purposeâ? has been very fully defined in Section 49 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2001.
Under the Act of 2001, only âthird partiesâ? pursuing âpolitical purposesâ? are obliged to register with the Standards in Public Office Commission. See HERE for an earlier posting on the topic.
Section 49 reads:
âpolitical purposesâ means any of the following purposes, namely –
(i) (I) to promote or oppose directly or indirectly, the interests of a political party, a political group, a member of either House of the Oireachtas or a representative in the European Parliament, or
(II) to present, directly or indirectly, the policies or a particular policy of a political party, a political group, a member of either House of the Oireachtas, a representative in the European Parliament or a third party, or
(III) to present, directly or indirectly, the comments of a political party, a political group, a member of either House of the Oireachtas, a representative in the European Parliament or a third party with regard to the policy or policies of another political party, political group, a member of either House of the Oireachtas, representative in the European Parliament, third party or candidate at an election or referendum or otherwise, or
(IV) to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the interests of a third party in connection with the conduct or management of any campaign conducted with a view to promoting or procuring a particular outcome in relation to a policy or policies or functions of the Government or any public authority;
(ii) to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, the election of a candidate at a DÃ¡il, Seanad or European election or to solicit votes for or against a candidate or to present the policies or a particular policy of a candidate or the views of a candidate on any matter connected with the election or the comments of a candidate with regard to the policy or policies of a political party or a political group or of another candidate at the election or otherwise;
(iii) otherwise to influence the outcome of the election or a referendum or campaign referred to in paragraph (i)(IV) of this definition;
On this definition an effort, collective or otherwise, to deprecate or oppose the government of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe would, if in receipt of more than â¬125 in a year, oblige the recipient to register with the Standards in Public Office Commission. (Mugabe is a “third party” and his government is a “public authority”)
The Irish Times would be better off defending freedom of expression and the right to communicate rather than making special pleading for politicians seeking to protect themselves from accountability to the electorate.