Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill – Submissions

Posted by Elaine Byrne

The Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality has invited written submissions from interested groups or individuals in relation to the Heads of the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill. If you wish to make a written submission you can send it to the Clerk to the Committee at: justiceanddefence@oir.ie before the end of August.

My Sunday Independent article on the Corruption Bill.

The following is a piece I also wrote for the University of New South Wales on the Corruption Bill.

“The collapse of the domestic banking sector in Ireland has created the greatest challenge to the State since it was founded in 1922.” The Irish parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts did not mince its words when it published its Report on the crisis in the domestic banking sector in July.

The ‘unprecedented’ direct cost to the State – through the recapitalisation of the banks – is now estimated to be €64.1 billion, the equivalent to 41% of GDP in 2011. In other words, approximately seven times what the State spends annually on education; over four times what it spends annually on health and almost twice the State‘s total tax revenue.

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Early days of the SOS (‘Save Our Seanad’) campaign

Posted by Matt Wall

A  letter to the Irish Times from six former Senators represents a faltering start to the campaign against the government’s plans to abolish the Seanad. The six argue, as many others have and will, for reform rather than abolition. Sadly, their case is not helped by the farcical nature of many of the ‘debates’ that unfold with such regularity and futility in the current Seanad. Such debates are all-too-often nothing more than set pieces. They tend to be treated as such by their participants – rhetorical grandstanding and political point scoring are par for the course, and considered, constructive inputs are far more rare (though by no means absent).

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Possible referendums on Articles 26 and 34

By Michael Gallagher

Earlier this week the Minister for Justice announced proposals to amend several articles of the constitution dealing with the role of the judiciary, specifically to add a Civil Court of Appeal and a Family Court, and to reconsider the ‘one judgment rule’ in Article 26.2.2. Details in a press release of 17 July 2012:

1. Add a Civil Court of Appeal and a Family Court structure. This would reduce the load on the Supreme Court, which is responsible for a lengthy backlog of cases, and would also narrow the range of cases that reach it. Continue reading

Should Ireland appoint non-parliamentary ministers?

Posted by Eoin O’Malley (20 July, 2012)

A central theme in constitutional politics is the separation of powers. The Irish constitution doesn’t refer to this directly, but it is implied and the courts have assumed that a separation of powers does exist. While we can reasonably argue that the judiciary is independent of the executive and legislature in practice (except that the executive appoints the judiciary), no such argument can be made for the separation of the legislature and the executive.

In parliamentary systems of government, the parliament appoints the government (executive) but more than this, in Ireland, as with many other places, the legislature appoints a government from among its own members. Continue reading

Dan O’Brien on seperating the roles of TD and Minister

Interesting article from Dan O’Brien in the Irish Times here, flagged up by Paul Hunt in a comment. Should Ministers also be TDs? A response that usually comes from the political system on this is that there is provision to nominate 2 ministers via the Seanad, though this very rarely happens. Would having a minister with a shred of economic training in the Finance portfolio have led to a better decision on the bank guarantee? Certainly, a little expertise couldn’t have hurt, the apocryphal image the late Minister Lenihan taking a crash course in economics while chewing raw garlic in David MacWilliams’ kitchen comes to mind.

Anyway, perhaps another issue that the Constitutional Convention should consider but won’t, unless it radically expands its agenda via the ’8th item’ (all other issues).

Constitutional Convention Debate on Tonight With Vincent Browne on TV3 (posted by Matt Wall)

Really interesting debate on the government’s plans to involve citizens in Irish constitutional reform with contributions from: this site’s Elaine Byrne, Conor O’Mahony, a constitutional law expert from UCC, and Oliver Moran from the Second Republic civil society group. Labour’s Alex White gamely defending the government’s performance and plans to date – though he was batting on a sticky wicket on many specific points. I get the feeling that many Labour members are feeling rather shortchanged on their party’s campaign promise to completely re-write the Constitution by 2016. If you didn’t catch it last night, it’s well worth a watch on the TV3 player.

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Lobbying policy proposals and presentations

Posted by Elaine Byrne

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform hosted a conference on lobbying in Farmleigh recently. These presentations were made available today.

  • Regulation of lobbying policy proposals.
  • The presentation by Lynn Morrison, Integrity Commissioner & Lobbyists Registrar of Ontario.
  • The presentation by Áine Stapleton, Department of Public Expenditure & Reform.
  • Minister Brendan Howlin’s opinion piece in the Irish Times on lobbying.

Concerns from the conference centred on -

  • The definition of lobbying (chapter four of the policy proposals)
  • The confidentiality of legal advice in the context of lobbying
  • European Union voluntary register v mandatory register
  • The potential administrative burden on organisations
  • Tax implications for charities
  • Issues around the ‘cooling off period’.

Should we be able to recall our TDs?

By Michael Gallagher

Recall of elected representatives occasionally surfaces in discussions of political reform, and has been given topicality by the adverse publicity surrounding the Wexford TD Mick Wallace and his tax affairs. It also arose last month (June 2012) in the US state of Wisconsin, where attempts, ultimately unsuccessful, by local Democrats to pull the plug on the term of Republican governor Scott Walker got wide publicity outside the USA in this presidential election year.

The basic idea is that an elected representative is subject to ‘recall’ by his or her voters. Typically, a certain number of signatures on a petition are required, and if this number is reached a referendum on the incumbent’s continuation in office takes place. Continue reading

Credit where it’s due to the government – and some thoughts on gender quotas. By Matt Wall

So I recently learned that  The Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011 will soon be passed as law. Looks like some really progressive stuff, especially when you look at the ongoing hyper monetization of politics that is taking place in the usa. I can’t wait to see the parties publish comprehensive accounts, which should let the media, academia, and general public keep a closer eye on how we fund our politics.

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Niamh Hardiman – Irish Governance In Crisis

Posted by Elaine Byrne

Dr Niamh Hardiman of UCD wrote a piece yesterday for the Sunday Business Post on governance which is posted in full below. Her edited collected, Irish Governance In Crisispublished by Manchester University Press (2012) is launched this week. Niamh Hardiman teaches in UCD School of Politics and International Relations.

What are we changing exactly?

Irish politics is generally held to be in grave need of reform. The global economic crisis since 2008 showed how poorly prepared we were for any downturn, let alone anything on the scale of the crisis that has engulfed us. Our attempts to get to the bottom of successive scandals by setting up tribunals of inquiry have left us disillusioned. The party system itself, which seemed so remarkably durable throughout good times and bad, is now more fluid than it has been in a long time: Fianna Fáil’s once-dominant position has been overturned, and Sinn Féin and other parties are scrambling to fill the gap. But the current Fine Gael-Labour coalition controls a historically large majority, and has promised to undertake a new round of political reform. This is a good moment to pause and consider what exactly it is we wish to reform.

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