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
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
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?
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
Location: FitzGerald Debating Chamber, Student Centre, UCD
What kind of institutions can be framed to deal with the challenges of the 21st century, while maintaining the spirit of a republic? The structure of political institutions and the quality of public and civic life were long-standing concerns for Dr Garret FitzGerald. The third annual UCD Garret FitzGerald School will address issues concerning the reform of democratic institutions in Ireland, which has recently gained momentum from the Constitutional Convention, debates on the role of the Senate, and possibilities of far-reaching changes in institutions ranging from the judiciary and courts to the educational system.
The Opening Keynote, on The Infrastructure of Democracy, by Professor Philip Pettit of Princeton University is at 6 pm on Friday 20 June. Ruairi Quinn TD, Minister for Education and Skills, will respond, followed by a reception.
On Saturday, 21 June 2014 there will be sessions on
- Reforming Institutions: Politics. Speakers: Dr. Niamh Hardiman and Professor John Coakley, School of Politics and International Relations, UCD
- Reforming Institutions: The Law. Speakers: Hon. Mr. Justice John MacMenamin, Supreme Court and Dr. Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, UCD
- Reforming Institutions: Education. Speakers: Dr. Eoin Daly, School of Law, NUI Galway and Dr. Iseult Honohan, School of Politics and International Relations, UCD
To register please RSVP to email@example.com as soon as possible.
*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
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