By Jane Suiter
The Government is now 100 days in office, a date by which it stated it would have achieved significant reforms. Eyes have of course been on the economy but what is its record in political reform?
The Programme for Government promised reform in a number of area including parliamentary reform, a broader constitutional review and measures to reduce executive dominance/
Specifically it promised to put a number of issues to referendum and some of these have now been promised later this year or next year. But a few remain outstanding
• A referendum to protect the right of citizens to communicate in confidence with public representatives.
• A referendum to amend the Constitution to ensure that children’s rights are
Strengthened, along the lines recommended by the All-Party Oireachtas committee.
We are also still awaiting the Constitutional Convention to consider comprehensive constitutional reform, with a brief to consider, as a whole or in sub-groups, and report within 12 months on the following:
• Review of our Dáil electoral system.
• Reducing the presidential term to 5 years and aligning it with the local and European elections
• Provision for same-sex marriage.
• Amending the clause on women in the home and encourage greater participation of women in public life.
• Removing blasphemy from the Constitution
• Possible reduction of the voting age.
The Programme for Government also explicitly states that “We will ensure our Government is seen to be held to account”.
In this regard it promised among other items to introduce
• A role for the Ceann Comhairle in deciding whether a Minister has failed to provide reasonable information in response to a question.
• A radical extension of the parliamentary question system,
• A new procedure for answering oral questions by state bodies.
• amend Dáil standing orders to ensure that replies to written questions are furnished
Within a specified number of days, even during Dáil recess.
The PfG also argued that Government is too centralised and unaccountable. “We believe that there must also be a real shift in power from the State to the citizen.” here it promised to
• legislate on the issue of cabinet confidentiality.
• legislate to restore the Freedom of Information Act and extend its remit to other public bodies
• introduce Whistleblowers legislation.
• introduce spending limits for all elections, including Presidential elections and
Constitutional referendums, including for a period in advance of scheduled Local, European,
General and Presidential Elections.
• Significantly reduce the limits on political donations to political parties and candidates
• introduce the necessary legal and constitutional provisions to ban corporate donations to
• amend the Official Secrets Act
• introduce a statutory register of lobbyists, and rules concerning the practice of lobbying.
• establish an Electoral Commission to subsume the functions of existing bodies and the Department of the Environment.
• amend the rules to ensure that no senior public servant (including political appointees) or
Minister can work in the private sector in any area involving a potential conflict of interest with their former area of public employment, until at least two years have elapsed after they have left the public service.
• Restrictions on the nature and extent of evidence by civil servants to Oireachtas committees will be scrapped and replaced with new guidelines for civil servants that reflect the reality of the authority delegated to them and their personal accountability for the way in which it is exercised.
• make good corporate governance the law, not an optional extra, and enact legislation to
provide for binding code of practice for corporate governance, which will be obligatory for
companies wishing to be listed on Irish stock exchange.
• end the heavy dependence on a very limited pool of extremely expensive private
solicitors firms providing legal services to the State and agencies
To paraphrase, much done, far more to do?