Report of the Seanad Working Group on Reform

post by Elaine Byrne 13 April 201

The report of the Seanad Working Group on Reform was published today.

It can be accessed here.

The proposals include votes for the 800,000 Irish passport holders abroad, residents in Northern Ireland and popular election.

A draft Bill will be published shortly which seeks to implement the proposals of the WG. As per the remit of the Working Group, the proposals are within the confines of the constitution and do not need a referendum.


A Volatile Electorate: Where Next?

Dr. Mel Farrell, 3 December 2014

The Great Depression helped create the party system that dominated Irish politics for eighty years, the Great Recession may be about to force a new way in Irish politics.

After the 2011 general election, what newly elected Taoiseach Enda Kenny described as a ‘Democratic Revolution’, shook the foundations of Ireland’s political system. Fianna Fáil, a party that had never dropped below 39% of the first preference vote between 1932 and 2007, was decimated at the polls, dropping to 17% and a mere twenty Dáil seats. This represented a fall of 24% from the 41% Fianna Fáil secured at the 2007 general election. Of course, when one factors in the Green Party (-2.9%), and the Progressive Democrats (-2.7%, party dissolved in 2009), one can see that the outgoing government lost a combined 29% of the first preference vote. It was an electoral earthquake with no precedent since the foundation of the state in 1922 and comparable only to the Irish Parliamentary Party’s collapse in December 1918.

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GRECO Report on Corruption in Ireland

Elaine Byrne 21/11/14

The Council of Europe (GRECO) today published it’s fourth evaluation round report on corruption in Ireland. Corruption prevention in respect of members of parliament, judges and prosecutors  contains eleven recommendations.

The recommendations are a timely intervention into the debate on political reform – much of which campaigners for reform have been advocating for some time. No surprises here – the strong focus on judges pay is interesting though. Much of it is echoes the European Commission report on corruption in Ireland published earlier this year.


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It’s not just the Commissioner, stupid!

Elaine Byrne, 25 March 2014

The traditional attitude to scandal in Ireland is to politicise and personalise. We move on once the head-on-the-plate has been delivered. Or we just move on without it. The third anniversary of the Moriarty Tribunal fell last weekend – but let’s not go there (the hot weather in exile is some compensation). 

Let’s get it right this time. The government are actually introducing far-reaching legislation that will make elements of Ireland’s ethical infrastructure that of international best practice. Ireland is not corrupt but that perception is there because we mess up on the small stuff. 

The resignation of the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan should not have happened. He was damned if he did, damned if he didn’t – long before his “disgusting” remarks about whistleblowers.



What should happen now?

For the last 18 months I was a consultant on the European Commission anti-corruption report on Ireland. This involved liaising with stakeholders from many of Ireland’s watchdog agencies. The problems they articulated were similar across the board – resource capability, legislative limitations, overlapping responsibilities and ability of the different oversight organisations to co-operate and share information. I wrote about this here and hereAn independent audit of all oversight agencies is long overdue, as articulated by former financial regulator Mathew Elderfield last year.

The Garda Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has made two specific reform proposals (among many others). 

1. Reform the whistleblower framework 

GSOC should act as the external confidential recipient. A position where the Gardaí receive complaints of corruption or malpractice about themselves was never a runner. Changes to the whistleblowing framework are already underway, there was a high level Inter-Departmental meeting on this issue already this week. 

2. The Garda Commissioner must be subject to civilian oversight 

GSOC currently have responsibility to oversee policing but this does not extend to the Commissioner. GSOC should have the capacity to investigate allegations of misbehaviour by the Garda Commissioner where it is in the public interest.


European Commission corruption report on Ireland


Elaine Byrne 3 February 2014

The European Commission published its first Anti-Corruption report today.

Information on the Eurobarometer polls and summaries of each country can be found here

The Ireland chapter is here.

The report makes a number of observations across different sectors of Irish public life. It has commended the government for the reforms it has introduced but states that more needs to be done, particularly when it comes to prosecuting corruption.

The European Commission report was written by European Commission officials from DG Home. It was researched by me with the assistance of Trinity College Dublin, Government of Ireland scholar Mark Carpenter.

Political Party Accounts, Unaccounted For?


Elaine Byrne 31 January 2014

An exchange between the Chair of the Standards in Public Office Commission recently the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr. Phil Hogan T.D., with regard to the draft guidelines on political finance largely went by unnoticed. Just as unnoticed were the implications of the far-reaching Electoral (Political Funding) Act 2012. 

The potential effect of the Minister’s decision not to implement the Standard Commission recommendations on party finance is that Fine Gael, and the state’s other political parties, are not obliged to provided a detailed set of accounts until 2016. The cynical might suggest the timing is thus convenient – after the 2016 election.

This is my submission to the Standards Commission, based on research conducted for the IDEA index of political financing, Global Integrity report and the European Commission report on corruption in Ireland. There’s a chapter in my corruption book on political donations in Ireland spanning 1980s-2000s. The submission distinguishes between donations to political parties and individuals from (a)corporations with government contracts, (b) corporations which are actively undergoing a tender process for the procurement of public funded contracts and (c) corporations which are government owned or partially government owned. It also examines multiple donations by the same individual, the role of third parties, the difficulties around accrual v cash receipts and the capacity of the Standards Commission.

Below is my Sunday Business Post column on the implications of the political finance.

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Dáil reform ?

The Taoiseach and Tánaiste announced Dáil reform measures today – two and a half years after the 2011 election.

According to the Irish Times report by Stephen Collins, the measures will only come into force if the electorate gives a mandate to abolish the Seanad. At first glance the commitment to consult experts and civil society before the pre-legislative stage to develop legislation before Bills are drafted is positive and in line with the OECD’s 2008 recommendations in its report on Ireland.

Why are some of the announced measures contingent on the Seanad referendum passing?