If the Seanad is to be abolished then the government must explain (properly!) why

And so they’re off! The Fine Gael party today launched their referendum campaign to abolish the Seanad, with Richard Bruton in the driving seat as director of elections for the party and Regina Doherty as his deputy.

Having brought this issue to a head, the onus is now firmly on the government, and particularly on Fine Gael (given that we all know who really is responsible for this referendum question) to produce a coherent argument as to why the Seanad should be abolished. Up until now the Taoiseach’s line has been – wrongly – that abolition of the Seanad would be a major piece of political reform. To his credit, in his press statement today Richard Bruton steers clear from that silly notion. Continue reading

Can Lucinda Creighton be denied the right to run as a Fine Gael candidate in the next election?

lucinda-creighton-4-390x285It now seems a forgone conclusion that Lucinda Creighton will vote against the Fine Gael party whip in the vote on the abortion bill later today or tomorrow. Many of the commentaries on this suggest that this will jeopardize her political career: she will lose her junior ministerial position as Minister for Europe; she will lose her membership of the parliamentary party; and Enda Kenny has made clear that she, like the other rebels, will not be allowed to run as a candidate for Fine Gael in the next election. But is this last threat really true? Continue reading

What happens when a ballot paper becomes too large?

219161-senate-ballotThe short answer – as we’re about to see in Australia – is that voters have to be issued with magnifying glasses! As Antony Green explains in this clip, the number of parties on the ballot paper for the next Senate election has become so large that the only way a ballot paper can be printed that remains within the printing limit of one metre (!) in diameter is to use a 6-point font! Continue reading

Ireland needs an Electoral Commission now!

votingCommon to all the discussions about political reform in Ireland is the need to reduce the excessive centralization of power in the executive. In recent posts I’ve examined this from the perspective of Dail reform. This post focuses on the administration of elections in Ireland.

A good starting point is this document, which was the response of the Department of the Environment to a request by the Constitutional Convention for its input into the Convention’s deliberations on electoral reform last month. The arrogant and dismissive tone of this response drew the wrath of the members and the comment of one of the experts, Prof Michael Marsh of TCD, that it served as a wonderful illustration of why Ireland needs an Electoral Commission. Continue reading

A new political culture will require a more open relationship between citizens and the political system

angloGuest post by Sarah O’Neill, founder Dailwatch.ie

For many, last week’s AngloTapes have reinforced a sense of cynicism in the political system and confirmed their rationale for disengaging from the political process. The conversation between two Anglo’s senior managers suggests that the banks had the upper hand in negotiations with government leaders and reveals an arrogance among the bank’s officials in considering the repercussions of their actions. However, outrage and blame are temporary and without independent, transparent mechanisms for ensuring accountability within our political system, we are at danger of sleep-walking into yet another crisis. Continue reading

So how should the Dáil be reformed?

As set out in a previous post on this Forum (see here), Dáil reform is long overdue: this government’s efforts (to date and promised) are piecemeal, insufficient and in some instances completely – and arguably deliberately – miss the point (the most prominent example being Seanad abolition).

So what reforms should they implement? This post sets out some preliminary ideas in the hope of stimulating others. It’s prompted by an op ed in today’s Irish Times in which Conor Brady proposes ‘Ten Reforms’ that should be introduced ‘to make the Oireachtas more effective, more accountable and better respected by the people it serves’. Continue reading

The Irish Constitutional Convention illustrates how ordinary citizens can play their part in the process after all

ccvenPost by Harry McGee, political correspondent The Irish Times. This article originally appeared in the Connacht Tribune, 12 June 2013

I have to say I was sceptical about the notion of a citizens’ assembly becoming part of official political discourse in Ireland. The idea is that rather than getting politicians to decide on new political direction, you get a representative group of people drawn from all strands of society – getting the demographics and geographics right, as Bertie Ahern kept on saying.

To me it seemed like an indulgence to political scientists – telling them all their Christmases had come Continue reading

Where’s Ireland’s party political earthquake now?

The last election was seen at the time as an electoral earthquake. In the midst of the worst economic crisis in our history it was to be expected that the voters would be gunning for the government of the day. The devastation of Fianna Fáil (losing three-quarters of their seats) and the disappearance of the Greens (losing all of theirs) certainly seemed of earthquake proportions, as were the historically high levels of electoral volatility – one of the highest ever recorded in any democracy (see here). It was said at the time that politics would never be the same again: moulds had been broken; party allegiances had been blown away; Fianna Fáil were judged to be in their death throes never to return again. Continue reading