The Dalkey Active Society Group
Building democratic institutions and practices from the ground up
A Plan for Renewal in Dalkey
An exercise in Direct Democracy by Association
The aim of this project is to grow and foster the culture and practice of democracy in our communities and society.
Democracy is fundamentally about us the people being in collective control of our shared lives and destinies. Representative democracy, our current model in use, does not deliver this and so must be supplemented by a more active engagement by the citizens. The advantages of people taking control in the manner outlined will be manifest and real from pretty early on. This is no armchair or theoretical blueprint but a plan of action.
Sketch examples of what would be entailed:
- Pharmacists in our area are called upon the meet regularly with the people of the community in a town hall meeting where all kinds of questions about drugs, medicines and ailments may be broached and discussed in the open for all to listen and learn.
For instance Select Stores had an event in Fitzpatrick’s Hotel recently called Health on the Hill with the international nutritionist Patrick Holford. This event corresponded in some way to the format of a town hall meeting. We are talking about expanding that format to cover not just nutritional supplements bit all the facets of our lives that we derive from Dalkey and from our trading and business neighbours.
For instance the whole area of generic drugs is an urgent issue that will confuse many people in the area. It would be a good idea to get doctors, pharmacists and community people together in to a town hall meeting to address all the concerns that will be arising. This could be our inaugural meeting.
- Similarly Garda and Superintendent may meet with the town’s people and answer questions and give information about changes in policing practices, approaches to policing of specific sections of the community, such as young people, etc.
- Banks, building societies, financial advisors, will also be asked to address the concerns of the community in these stressful times and explain their practices and policies and anticipated changes in them.
- Similarly purveyors of food and groceries for the home may be invited to come together and explain their strategies for giving healthy nutritious food to the people of the town and also quality effective toiletries, solvents, etc. for healthy use in the home. Inconsistent pricing practices may be a popular topic with some merchants. Restaurateurs, etc. may also be invited as well.
- Other professionals who may also be asked to come before the town hall meeting to give accounts of their contribution to the community life could be: doctors, architects, solicitors, teachers, and whomever else. A miscellany of small traders and commercial service provides may also be asked to showcase their services.
- Public, health and social service providers will be an important group to go before the town people to explain and give information on all of the many issues that are affecting them right now, including the many drastic service delivery changes that are being imposed by Government politicians.
- Another group crucial to the life of the community, publicans will also be requested to meet before the community in the town hall setting where issues of mutual concern can be thrashed out. Issues such as serving hours, special occasions, nuisance drinking, policies regarding the barring of certain customers, review of barring statuses, etc. Pubs will be required to answer for their contribution to harmony in the community.
- Council officials and elected local politicians will also be asked to address the public on local infrastructure issues, maintenance and construction projects as well as on environmental concerns, including waste disposal and water and coast line management.
- Other groups as may be deemed appropriate.
People with particular interests in each of these areas of concern may wish to meet in between town hall meetings to discuss issues, conduct research and to prepare matters for debate at future town hall meetings. These will constitute working groups. They will be run on a voluntary basis and will be open to all interested.
All the working groups may wish to meet in plenary session once or twice a year to review the state of the ‘whole community system’ and the interactions of its interrelated parts. They may decide to change their operating procedures, to address new issues, to engage in specific practices and to liaise with local as well as national government over many issues. The plenary meeting will also address the slightly more philosophical question of what does Dalkey want, what kind of community do the people of Dalkey want it to be?
Disputes are inevitable in communities and among neighbours. The plenary council should take it upon itself to empower a mediation service to operate in Dalkey for Dalkey residents for resolution of issues that affect the happiness, eudemonia and good relations between neighbours, friends, trading neighbours and business colleagues.
People will be permitted to form interest groups to represent their point of view, the purpose of which will have to be justified sand agreed in the community, probably in plenary session.
Petitions will also be a valuable mechanism whereby people can bring issues to the attention of the whole town that many in the town would not have previously acknowledged. Official and active acknowledgement will be the mandatory outcome of a successful petition..
Training in the method of democratic group work will be an essential element of the process if we are to introduce the culture of democratic practices and procedures in to school, college, and work places. This will be a crucial test of the entire process. If the seeds of democracy are rooted in the fundaments of daily life practices and are used practically and usefully then the future of democracy in Ireland will be secure. If however, as at present, they are like the grass seeds barely planted in loose and shallow soil they will be blown away with the first tempest. Democracy is not at its strongest in Ireland right now. We need to safeguard its future. Nothing less than projects like this right across all communities in Ireland will make it secure.
Let Dalkey lead the way.
The fuel which will drive this project to success with be very simply a mixture of patience, goodwill, good cheer and a determination to excel in a ground-braking and innovative project.
If you have ideas or comments that you would like to contribute please get in touch with me by phone or email.
Dr Paul A. Stokes
University College Dublin