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

Economic recession, democratic recession?

I am the co-director (with Dr Kristof Jacobs) of an ECPR workshop at the 2014 Joint Sessions in Salamanca (see here for details).  Academics from ECPR member institutions are welcome to apply. Deadline for proposals — December 1.

The puzzling relationship between economic crisis and democracy  

Recently, a lot of research efforts have been put into examining the impact of the economic crisis on such topics as welfare state reform; financial system reform; public disaffection, protest and mobilisation; economic voting; European integration and, lastly, the fate of populist parties. However, to date the broader impact of the crisis on our democratic institutions has largely been ignored. This is especially unfortunate as the crisis presents an unprecedented opportunity to examine the impact of economic downturns on the procedural quality of democracy. More specifically the current crisis should enable the study of processes of change to democratic structures and processes – so called political reforms – and how these tend to take place under extreme circumstances. Continue reading

The progress of the Irish Constitutional Convention to date

ccvenDeclaration of interest: The author is the research director of the Irish Constitutional Convention

The Irish Constitutional Convention has almost completed its work.  At its most recent meeting it dealt with the last of the eight topics assigned to it by the Government. All that remains is for the Convention to use its remaining time to consider ‘Any other Amendments’ — the focus of its final meetings early in the New Year.

On its establishment, the Convention was roundly criticised, with much of the criticism focused on the limited (and admitedly pretty eclectic) range of topics that it was given to consider.  Over the course of its deliberations minds have changed and many who were critical of it are less so today (see here for an example).

This post updates on an earlier analysis (see here) of the progress of the Convention to date. Continue reading

Referendum campaigns are not like election campaigns

This post is based on a brief talk I gave on October 10 at a post-mortem on the referendum organized by the Voters, Parties and Elections section of the Political Studies Association of Ireland.


The more recent referendums on Seanad abolition and the Court of Appeal should give political parties – and particularly their back room strategists – some cause to reflect on how referendums are run in this country. Ireland is third to Switzerland and Italy in terms of the number of referendums held, and yet how we administer referendums and how the parties fight them are still in the Stone Age. With the promise of more referendums to come, this is a problem that needs urgent attention. Continue reading

How did the polls get it so wrong in the Seanad referendum?

Post by Kevin Cunningham
PhD Candidate in Political Science at Trinity College Dublin

pollingThe Millward Brown/Independent poll conducted between the 13th and 25th of September suggested a 64 per cent to 36 per cent margin in favour of abolition. The Red C/Sunday Business Post poll conducted between the 9th and 11th of September indicated a 59% to 41% margin. The night before the election, Paddy Power offered 1/10 on a Yes vote compared to a 5 to 1 for a No vote.

The error in these polls was a consequence of insufficiently accounting for the likelihood of an individual to turn out. Continue reading