The role of the President

By Jane Suiter

The Irish Times today editorialises on the role of the Presidency.  It raises the issues of an expansion of powers of the presidency pointing out that the “President has clear constitutional obligations and duties, few independent functions and can act only on the advice of the government. In 1973, Erskine Childers, in announcing his candidature for the Presidency, made it clear that he wished to expand “the dimension and character” of the office. However his sudden death after two years in office, and the lack of enthusiasm shown by the government for a more independent minded President, meant little progress was made towards that goal”. This is still the case.

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29 May Sunday Red C-Business Post poll figures would produce overall Fine Gael majority

Adrian Kavanagh, 30 May 2011

The latest edition of the Red C-Sunday Business Post-Red C series of opinion polls produce good news for both the government parties, but especially for Fine Gael whose support levels are seen to stand at over 4% higher than the levels attained in February’s general election. Applying my constituency level analysis to these figures, seat estimates based on the simulated constituency support estimates suggest that Fine Gael would win a more than sufficient number of seats to form a majority single-party government if these figures were to be replicated in an election held today.

The opinion poll figures estimates the party support as follows: Fine Gael 41%, Labour 19%, Fianna Fail 16%, Sinn Fein 11%, Others 13%. Based solely on assigning seats on the basis of the constituency support estimates (using a d’Hondt method to determine which party wins the seats), party seat levels would be estimated as follows:  Fine Gael 89, Labour 33, Fianna Fail 18, Sinn Fein 11, Others 15. When a degree of subjectivity is factored in and vote transfers and vote splitting/management elements (based on vote transfer/management patterns oberved in the February 2011 election) are accounted for, the party seat levels would more than likely be as follows: Fine Gael 84, Labour 36, Fianna Fail 16, Sinn Fein 14, Others 16. Continue reading

Incrementalism or radical reform

By Jane Suiter

Writing in The Irish Times Eoin Daly of DCU argues that citizens should have access to non-sectarian public schools. While the argument is interesting in and of itself what appears to be at the heart of it is a kind of radical reform where, instead of the usual incrementalism typical of Irish public policy making, we ask what sort of system is it we want for the future and design for that. In many ways this can be applied to policy making in most government departments, where many things happen simply because they have always been done this way. Is it the case that if we are to reimagine Ireland then we need to look at all areas where vested interests have had an overly substantial input into policy making in the past? Some possible questions arising are whether our Ministers should be bound by precedent, or should they engage in radical reform? And if they do what are their chances of seeing come to fruition in the face of a possibly unenthusiastic public service?

Electoral reform to increase female representation

Liam Weeks*

It is widely recognised that adoption of a (closed) list electoral system would give political parties the power to increase the number of women in the Dáil. Women could be placed at the top of each party’s list of candidates, thus guaranteeing their election. However, if we are to see electoral reform, it is unlikely to be towards a closed list system. Few among the political elite seem in favour of it, it would require a referendum that would be difficult to pass, and it may have a number of undesired consequences.  Instead of this, a far easier change would be to modify the current STV system towards the Australian Senate-style model of STV. Continue reading

Garret FitzGerald – Friend of the PSAI

Posted by Gary Murphy – President, Political Studies Association of Ireland.

Garret FitzGerald who passed away on Thursday 19th May was a valued friend of the Political Studies Association of Ireland. He regularly participated at our conferences and events and attended many book launches supported by the association. Much has been written and spoken since his passing about his myriad existences as airline scheduler, economist, academic, politician, newspaper columnist, Europhile and public citizen. Less noted, however, was the fact that he was also a great supporter of the PSAI. The PSAI was founded in 1982 in the midst of the extraordinary electoral battles between Garret FitzGerald and Charles Haughey which then dominated Irish politics. It was established with the purpose of promoting the study of politics both in and ofIreland and Garret FitzGerald paid us the honour of showing up to our conferences to do just that by discussing numerous papers, some of which were even about himself! In doing so he made live the study of Irish politics.

He was generous with his time to numerous members of our association and profession who interviewed him about his life, policies and the tumultuous times he both lived in and helped to shape. He also left valuable and lengthy memoirs and recollections behind him and helped persuade many other politicians to do likewise. These records have been of enormous benefit to scholars of contemporaryIreland. I last met Garret FitzGerald on the Sunday after the recent general election in an RTE radio studio at which Michael Gallagher of TCD was also present. As we were finishing up our stint discussing the extraordinary general election result that had by then made itself clear, Garret FitzGerald turned and said to me in a big booming voice: “I suppose the PSAI will get plenty of mileage out of this”. And while this will no doubt be the case we won’t have the opportunity this October at our conference to hear Garret FitzGerald’s dulcet tones musing on Fine Gael’s 76 seats. The PSAI has lost a true friend.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam

Women in Irish politics: why so few and are quotas the answer?

By Claire McGing (John and Pat Hume scholar and Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences scholar (IRCHSS), NUI Maynooth)

Electoral politics inIrelandis a highly masculine realm. In total, only 91 women deputies have been elected since the foundation of the State (Buckley and McGing, forthcoming). The country currently has one of the worst gender balances in its parliament in the democratic world. Following the 2011 general election, women hold 25 seats out of 166 in the 31st Dáil, representing a figure of just 15.1%. Although low, this is a record high for the number of women elected in a general election inIreland. Progress in the lower house has been extremely slow to transpire in recent years. Significant progress was made between 1977 and 1992 where the percentage of female TDs increased from 4.1 to 12%. However, progress since then has remained generally static, with only five more women TDs elected in 2011 than had been in 1992.

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