The government continues to slight the work of the Constitutional Convention

In the light of the marriage equality and presidential age referendums last week – both the product of recommendations of the Constitutional Convention, a review of the current state of play of government responses to the Convention’s recommendations is timely.

The attached table gives the current situation as of today: ICC recommendations as of May 2015 Continue reading

The Constitutional Convention should take some of the credit for the marriage referendum outcome

There are many people and organisations to credit for the outcome of the marriage referendum, not least the incredible campaign mounted by the Yes side, as described by Noel Whelan in today’s Irish Times.

A question to ask is whether this referendum would ever have happened but for the huge endorsement this issue received from the Constitutional Convention, which debated this matter in April 2013. Would a socially conservative Fine Gael have been willing to accept its junior coalition partner’s desire for a referendum on a matter that hadn’t been included in the programme for government? Would the issue have attracted quite such a degree of all-party consensus? Continue reading

The ‘Spring Economic Statement’: yet another missed opportunity for real political reform

The Spring Economic Statement delivered today (see here) represents a very belated dipping of the toe in the water towards greater budgetary transparency by the government. We were promised this in 2011. The fact that it’s finally starting to happen four years later and coincidentally on the eve of the next election – is noteworthy. But at least it’s a start!

The cost of being more up front about budgetary plans is that the opposition is given an opportunity to criticize the government over its budgetary direction. To a degree this is all to be expected. But – not for the first time – the government has left itself unnecessarily vulnerable. And, again – not for the first time – the cause of this is lack of transparency. Continue reading

Could the call for radical Seanad reform re-ignite debate over Oireachtas reform?

Posted by David Farrell, April 13, 2015

The Report of the Working Group on Seanad Reform was published earlier today (see here). It was given a limited range of options: no change, minor change, or major change (but not involving constitutional reform). In opting for the latter the working group has defied most expectations (certainly mine), and in so doing has potentially re-opened the far more important debate over the need for radical Oireachtas reform. Continue reading

Government report on the diaspora snubs the diaspora, the Dáil and the Irish Constitutional Convention

The government launched its new diaspora policy last week – Global Irish – in which it applauded itself on its diaspora policy. Lots of warm words waft throughout the 57-page glossy document. But buried in the detail is a confirmation (on p. 21) that the government has chosen to ignore the recommendation of the Irish Constitutional Convention (ICC), which at its meeting in September 2013 proposed that emigrants and residents in Northern Ireland be given the right to vote in presidential elections (see here). Continue reading

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?

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