Reform Alliance Conference

Posted on behalf of Senator Fidelma Healy Eames

The Reform Alliance is looking for ideas on reform in advance of the conference Saturday.

The reforms will be tweeted on a big screen live throughout the sessions and we will also provide space for attendees to tweet their own ideas live on the day with #reform.

Despite some of the media depictions drawing parallels to Daniel O’Connell’s famous “Monster Meetings”, or that this is an Ard Fheis style meeting precipitating the launch of a new party, neither of these representations are accurate. Continue reading

Maternity Leave for Women Parliamentarians: Issues and Proposals

article-1314283-0B4D596E000005DC-686_634x373By Claire McGing, NUI Maynooth

Parliaments, of which the Dáil and Seanad are no exception, are highly gendered institutions. Since the rules were written by men at a time in which women were not expected to participate in politics, the very norms, rules and culture of parliament conform to a male lifestyle. This is why the idea of maternity leave in politics is a problematic, at times controversial, one – lengthy periods away from office for child-bearing don’t ‘fit’ with institutional notions of representative democracy as politicians weren’t really meant to get pregnant in the first place. But, if the will is there, parliaments can be reconceptualised and reformed to catch up with the gendered realities of modern society.

Continue reading

Seanad Referendum in Perspective


By Michael Marsh

Another weekend of referendums is now over and the debate is well under way as to what the result means: what did the people say when they spoke? We have various evidence to go on: the polls, anecdotal evidence, and the nature of the campaign itself, but all these are flawed. The polls after all were ‘wrong’, or at least did not provide any simple indication of what would happen and so the ‘intentions’ voiced in the polls may diverge from the reality of what people did. Anecdotes are just that, often chosen to fit an argument rather that employed to test one. And the campaign themes themselves are not necessarily those that motivated most voters to pick yes, no, or indeed to switch off. Continue reading

Voters Parties and Elections: Post mortem on the Seanad referendum

2013A - Seanad AbolitionOn Friday October 4th voters decided not to abolish Seanad Éireann. Voters Parties and Elections are delighted to invite you to an open debate on the campaign and result. It was a colourful campaign with allegations of populism and power grabbing levelled at the government by political parties and campaign groups on the No side. The Yes side focused on the cost of the Upper House and have tapped into public hostility towards politicians and the political system, yet failed to win in any Dublin constituency. Despite the emergence of new civil society groups OneHouse and Democracy Now, the campaign was dominated by elites and seems to have largely passed the public by. Concerns about apathy and a low turnout are encouraging many to dismiss the idea of further referendums. But is this a logical response? And what really did happen in those last few crucial days of the campaign?

Come along to hear from all sides on Thursday 10 October 5.30pm

New legislation to allow Oireachtas Inquiries

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has today outline his plans for to allow Oireachtas Inquires within the limits of the rejection of the constitutional referendum last year.
the RTE report is here.
The official announcement is here
The Bill will now be drafted so much is still to be played for, It will however be interesting to see at what stage it is given to the relevant committee to debate and decide. Clearly if this is to be about empowering the Oireachtas rather than the executive then very significant input must be given to Oireachtas Committee on Petitions and Inquiries.

Pilot Irish Data Website

On Friday, the Ireland Stat pilot website went live at
According to the DPER the objective of Ireland Stat is “to provide a whole-of-Government performance measurement system. At its simplest the website brings together data from a whole variety of different sources and sets them in the context of Department’s goals to show what Ireland has achieved, what it did in order to deliver on those goals, what it cost and how Ireland compares internationally.”
It is still very much at the beta stage and many of the categories are empty, nonetheless it looks as if it has the potential to be an interesting site, although much detail would have to be added.

There is a consultation process where suggestions may be used for future developments and improvements on the website.

Striking a better balance between democracy and regulation

Theresa Reidy and myself had a piece in the Irish Times earlier this week on the need to think about change for referendum rules. Many of the comments on The Irish Times site were from no voters in the Children’s Referendum who appeared to think that we would seek to ensure that their voices are not heard. However, in fact what we argue is that if we are to utilise the tools of direct democracy such as referendums then we should seek to maximise the democratic outputs. Referendums with low turnouts and large sections of the population not understanding the issue at hand are not enhancing of our democracy. Thus we need to look at new models.

Swiss style direct democracy?

Regular contributor Donal has asked us to link to his case for Swiss-style citizens initiative and direct democracy, which the Human Rights in Ireland website* has just published as part of the series Shadow Constitutional Convention,
He argues that there may be change in the criteria of decision-making at the top; change in social habits at the bottom. But unless these two are bridged by the mutual education of the democratic process, communication between the top and the bottom may cease. In Ireland, where the stimulus to change is external, something like this may in fact be happening

Citizens’ Voices: Experiments in Democratic Renewal and Reform

Edited by Gemma M Carney and Clodagh Harris (co-convenors of the Participatory and Deliberative Democracy Specialist Group of the Political Studies Association of Ireland).

This review was compiled by Aoife Crummy, NUI Galway. Posted by Jane Suiter

This e-book emerges from a symposium, ‘Beyond the Ballot: diverse forms of civic engagement between democratic elections,’ held in Dublin in March 2012. Funded by the ‘New Ideas Grant’ from the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the PSAI, the e-book is a collection of short versions of the papers which were presented at the symposium. Continue reading