The Irish Constitutional Convention completes its work

Irish CC in action

*Declaration of interest: I am the research director of the Convention (in a voluntary capacity).

Last weekend, the Constitutional Convention completed its work.  At its closing dinner last Saturday, the snappy slogan on the menu summed things up well: ’100 members, 10 meetings, 1 constitution’. With a budget of some €900,000 and a deadline of one year (that ultimately was extended by a further two months), the Convention surpassed all expectations. Continue reading

In elections it’s not just how votes are counted that matters

The first annual report of the highly influential Electoral Integrity Project has just been published (see here). Professor Pippa Norris and her colleagues have carried out an extensive survey of the electoral process across the world’s democracies over the past few years. Ireland’s last election (2011) preceded this project so it was not included on this occasion, but as the work of this project continues, our next election will come under scrutiny. Continue reading

Why do we need a directly elected Seanad?

The fallout from the Seanad referendum continues.  Various groups (most prominent among them Democracy Matters), political parties (notably Fianna Fáil) and prominent individuals such as Michael McDowell are clamouring for the government to introduce legislation to allow for the direct election of the next Seanad.  An editorial in today’s Irish Times makes supportive noises in the same direction, inviting the government to show some ‘flexibility’ on the matter.

To put some comparative context, the table below shows the state of play today in Europe’s 33 democracies.  (I would be grateful for information on any errors that might need correcting.)  As set out below, the facts speak for themselves.  Were we to move to a system of directly electing our Seanad, we would be pretty much a unique case in Europe (based particularly on our small population size and the fact that we have a unitary system of government). Continue reading

Shortcomings in the Referendum Commission’s research on the two recent referenda

Referendum-Commission-October-2013

The Referendum Commission’s report on the Seanad and Court of Appeal referendums was published just before Christmas (and can be read here). There is also an accompanying powerpoint file (here) that purports to be a research report carried out for the Commission by Behaviour & Attitudes. (Sorry: but in my book, a ‘research report’ needs to be a bit more than a series of powerpoint slides, and certainly more than the simplistic descriptive analysis presented here.) Continue reading

Political parties, like other public bodies, need to have their accounts fully audited

The ongoing standoff between the Minister for the Environment and the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) is yet another signal of just how much this government has backtracked on its supposed commitment to open government.

At the heart of this issue is what level of party accounts should be made available for auditing and public scrutiny. The Minister (and in fairness, it seems all the other parties with him – I stand ready to be corrected on this ☺) is of the view that the legislation (the Electoral (Political Funding) Act, 2012) requires that the parties need to only audit their national accounts. SIPO disagrees. As a letter this week from the outgoing SIPO Chair (published on their website here) makes clear their legal advice, on the contrary, is that the auditing should also extend to the sub-national units (i.e. the party branches) of the parties’ organizations. Continue reading

Another set of milestones in the work of the Irish Constitutional Convention

In the week that’s in it….

Earlier today it was announced on the Irish Constitutional Convention’s website that the convention members have decided that the last two meetings of the convention shall be focused on Dáil reform and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. And reports suggest that this week we will have the formal government announcement that, following a recommendation by the constitutional convention, there will be a referendum on same-sex marriage in the lifetime of this government. Continue reading

The future is…. Fianna Fáil?

Colm-Keaveney-2-appHere’s a link to an op ed Shaun Bowler and I published in today’s Irish Times that makes use of the 2011 Irish National Election Study (INES) to examine the potential for a new political party in Ireland. The bottom line is that, based at least on this rich source of data, the potential is not great. The group of voters showing greatest inclination for change are those based at the centre who traditionally support Fianna Fáil. Plus ça change…?

Looking to 2016 – How stands the Republic?

Post on behalf of Joe Mulholland

The papers presented at the 2013 MacGill Summer School are now available to read (see here).

For several years now, and especially since the sudden and brutal fall of the Celtic Tiger, the MacGill School has focussed on reform of the institutions of the state – political, social and economic. With webcasting and the sterling work of our colleagues in broadcasting and the press, this message goes far beyond the conference hall. As has been pointed out many times at MacGill, radical reform of our politics and governance in general has to be a priority if we are not to have recurring crises of the kind we are living painfully through at this time and it has to come from the bottom up. Continue reading

A political system friendly to independents but not to new parties

jfoley11aEvery day there is some opinion piece or other speculating about the possibility of a new political party emerging in Ireland. Journalistic eyes are peeled, watching every movement, signal or nuance from the likes of Lucinda Creighton, Michael McDowell, or any other obvious contenders seen as most likely to lead the way in establishing a new party. But how our political system is set up makes life very difficult for ambitious individuals aspiring to establish a new party. By contrast, it’s very easy for ambitious individuals wanting to run for office as independents. Continue reading

Late changes to the Freedom of Information Bill 2013 – a cynical move

delayA recent post on The Story blog (see here) reveals the government’s cynical move to introduce last minute changes to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill 2013 that will make FOI prohibitively expensive and therefore, in large part, unworkable. This (1) is contrary to what was promised and will put Ireland even more out of step with virtually all other countries, and (2) yet again demonstrates the need for real Dáil reform. Continue reading