Enda, Joan, Micheal, Gerry: Who will be first to hang up that whip?

The (ab)use of parliamentary whips in the Dáil has been much in the news of late – most recently in the light of an internal survey of Fine Gael TDs by Deputy Eoghan Murphy that was reported in yesterday’s Irish Times (here).

Three-quarters of Fine Gael TDs (74%) favour a relaxation of the whip. That’s quite a lot of support for the proposition by anyone’s reckoning.

On this Blog site there have been many calls for serious engagement with parliamentary reform – moving beyond the tokenistic moves of the current government. The need is for proper parliamentary reform that rebalances the power between Dáil and government, making the government more accountable to the Dáil.

Relaxing the parliamentary whip, which is used more strictly here than in others parliaments in Europe, should be part of this process. But this is different from all the other proposed reforms (such as secret elections for the Ceann Comhairle and committee chairs, etc.) in one very important respect, and that is that there is no need for any change to the Constitution, no need for any new legislation, no need to alter the Dáil standing orders.

All that is needed for the parliamentary whip to be relaxed is for one of the party leaders to announce that they will make this change for their party. The first to make this move will be the one to signal that Dáil reform truly matters for their party. It would only be a matter of time before the other party leaders would be forced to follow suit.

So, which party leader will move first?

Survey on Seanad Reform*

The rejection of the Seanad-abolition referendum in 2013 left more questions unanswered than it asked. However, what was clear from discussion during the referendum is that the Seanad as-is is unsatisfactory to the consensus of people.
With the question still lingering, and numerous reform bills circulating the Oireachtas, the Government announced in December that it was setting up a working group to recommend options for Seanad reform. The group, chaired by Dr. Maurice Manning, comprises former senators and political scientists, including an editor of this website, Dr. Elaine Byrne.

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Government U-turn on Votes at 16 shows its Contempt for the Dáil

Posted by David Farrell, January 1, 2015

When the government established the Irish Constitutional Convention it committed to providing a response to Dáil Éireann within four months of receipt of a Convention’s report. That this commitment is no longer being adhered to is a matter of some regret. But at least there have been responses to the first couple of reports by the Convention, and in some instances these have included firm commitments for action.

A case in point is the Convention’s recommendation to lower the voting age. Continue reading

A year in opinion polls: bad news for government, independents winning

ipi_2014

Irish Polling Indicator 2014. Shaded areas display 95% uncertainty estimates; line represents ‘best estimate’.

Support for Fine Gael and Labour has declined from a combined 38% early this year to 27.5% now. This represents the (joint) largest loss for the government parties in a calendar year since the coalition took office in 2011. In 2011 the coalition lost 10% of the vote, in 2012 7.5% and in 2013 1.5%. Fine Gael is now estimated at 22% (+/- 2% uncertainty margin), while Labour is just at 5.5% (+/- 1.5% uncertainty margin).

These figures are obtained from the Irish Polling Indicator, which combines four major Irish opinion polls into arguably the ‘best estimate’ of current parties’ support among the electorate. By combining polls we can better distinguish between real changes and random ‘noise’ due to the fact that opinion polls only survey a small sample of the population. Continue reading

The Lobbying register: facilitating transparency or allowing policy influence ‘under the radar’?

By Nuala Haughey
Almost fifteen years after the idea was first proposed in a Labour Party private members’ Bill, Ireland is due to get a mandatory lobbying register.
The online database will capture information about the efforts of interest groups and professional lobbyists alike to influence policy and legislation. The database is provided for in the Registration of Lobbying Bill 2014 which is currently before the Oireachtas. Groups and individuals who lobby will have to register with the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) and file lobbying returns three times a year.
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A Volatile Electorate: Where Next?

Dr. Mel Farrell, 3 December 2014

The Great Depression helped create the party system that dominated Irish politics for eighty years, the Great Recession may be about to force a new way in Irish politics.

After the 2011 general election, what newly elected Taoiseach Enda Kenny described as a ‘Democratic Revolution’, shook the foundations of Ireland’s political system. Fianna Fáil, a party that had never dropped below 39% of the first preference vote between 1932 and 2007, was decimated at the polls, dropping to 17% and a mere twenty Dáil seats. This represented a fall of 24% from the 41% Fianna Fáil secured at the 2007 general election. Of course, when one factors in the Green Party (-2.9%), and the Progressive Democrats (-2.7%, party dissolved in 2009), one can see that the outgoing government lost a combined 29% of the first preference vote. It was an electoral earthquake with no precedent since the foundation of the state in 1922 and comparable only to the Irish Parliamentary Party’s collapse in December 1918.

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GRECO Report on Corruption in Ireland

Elaine Byrne 21/11/14

The Council of Europe (GRECO) today published it’s fourth evaluation round report on corruption in Ireland. Corruption prevention in respect of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors  contains eleven recommendations.

The recommendations are a timely intervention into the debate on political reform – much of which campaigners for reform have been advocating for some time. No surprises here – the strong focus on judges pay is interesting though. Much of it is echoes the European Commission report on corruption in Ireland published earlier this year.

RECOMMENDATIONS –

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