Speaking about the Just Society… May 24, 2011Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics.
I’ve been searching in vain for a copy of the Just Society by Declan Costello on the internet. For a supposed foundation document of modern Fine Gael it’s has a surprisingly low level of existence outside of referencing. To my shame I’ve never read it, but I’d like to.
Anyhow, what referencing… on the FG website one will learn this:
By 1965 a new generation of politicians such as Declan Costello and Garret FitzGerald were dominating Fine Gael, and the Party adopted The Just Society document. In it, Fine Gael stated:
“Fundamentally we are concerned with making a reality of two concepts: Freedom and equality. Irish society today denies the full realisation of those concepts for all citizens. It is therefore not a just society. We seek office to work towards a society in which freedom and equality are not concepts for an academic textbook, but are expressed in real and tangible conditions which all our people can enjoy.”
The Just Society document saw the Party embrace the need for governments to act positively in order to improve the lives of the people.
It proposed root-and-branch reform of the public sector, as well as radically improved health and social welfare services.
It was with The Just Society in mind that new Party Leader, Liam Cosgrave agreed a pact with the Labour Party and formed the National Coalition that propelled Fine Gael into office in 1973
‘Root and branch reform of the public sector’ – eh? What a contemporary twist for a document that according to wiki and other sources sought social justice and economic planning as its main features. But how can we tell?
In 2004 Richard Bruton gave a speech, text of which here, at a Just Society seminar organised by the Collins 22 Society. He concluded with the following:
“The task for Fine Gael is to challenge complacency in the many areas where social justice is not being delivered. We must question the false consensus which tolerates many of these shortcomings. We must champion new policies capable of creating the just society which Declan Costello sketched out for Fine Gael almost forty years ago.”
And here he is from more recently arguing that:
A just society means different things to different people. Typically the media look to the voices of the left to shape the debate. But most on the left offer a narrow approach to justice offering a grey uniformity in pursuit of an egalitarian ideal. It is a perspective too closely aligned with state provision and lazily equates a higher percentage of public spending and tax with a fairer society. The notion that to deliver fair public services requires that they be universal, uniform and free is simply not consistent with the expectations of well informed citizens who want to have more control over their lives and the chance to do the very best for themselves and for their children with whatever resources are at their disposal.
However, a just society is not to be found either in the rabid individualism espoused by those on the right. Their view has been in the ascendant in recent years. It measures progress solely by rising consumer demand for, larger houses, exotic holidays and surround sound entertainment. At its best it offers personal refuge in a well furnished capsule. But too often its narrow pursuit allows the pillars which buttress strong communities crumble away. Solidarity falls between the crevices.
This seems quite a malleable concept. So malleable that David Begg can also reference it in front of CORI in 2002:
Those who have sought to create the conditions for a just society in Ireland have often faced difficulties. The most prominent casualty in recent memory was Mr Justice Declan Costello. In the 1960’s he promoted “the just society policy” in the Fine Gael party and, in so doing, put an end to his political career.
Wiki notes its connection with ‘social democracy’…
The Just Society, advocating policies based on principles of social justice and equality. That document was the brainchild of Declan Costello, a Fine Gael TD and son of former Taoiseach John A. Costello, and reflected an emerging faction in the party that was being influenced by Social Democracy. This new strand of thinking in Fine Gael paved the way for the rise within the party of liberal thinkers such as Garret FitzGerald.
Anyways, if anyone has a copy they’re willing to forward – or if they can point to an on-line source – I’d be very grateful. Who knows, perhaps it could/should take it’s place in the Left Archive.