Electoral reform to increase female representation

Liam Weeks*

It is widely recognised that adoption of a (closed) list electoral system would give political parties the power to increase the number of women in the Dáil. Women could be placed at the top of each party’s list of candidates, thus guaranteeing their election. However, if we are to see electoral reform, it is unlikely to be towards a closed list system. Few among the political elite seem in favour of it, it would require a referendum that would be difficult to pass, and it may have a number of undesired consequences.  Instead of this, a far easier change would be to modify the current STV system towards the Australian Senate-style model of STV. Continue reading

Election 2011 and transfers

Liam Weeks*

Since 2011 may be the last general election by PR-STV in Ireland (if some of the political parties get their way), it is worth looking at the value of the transferable nature of the vote. This is one particular feature that makes STV so voter-friendly and yet its value is sometimes dismissed by media commentators.

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Policy Advisers: who are they and what do they do?

Liam Weeks*

Micheál Martin recently suggested that the government should pay more attention to experts outside of the political process in formulating its strategy. But what about the paid experts already brought in from the ‘outside’ to advise the government? I am referring to the special advisers of every minister and minister of state. Who are they and what do they do?

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Are independents a danger to democracy?

Liam Weeks*

Recent media reports of the voting intentions of independent TDs re-the Finance Bill seem to imply that independents undermine the stability of Irish democracy.

The claim is that Jackie Healy-Rae, Michael Lowry et al are acting selfishly by not voting in favour of the Finance Bill or by attempting to extract promises from the government in return for their support. Continue reading

Is the only truly new Dáil an independent Dáil ?


Liam Weeks*

Reading the calls for reform from afar, there seems to be one overarching theme: a desire to improve the calibre of parliamentarians.

To date, most of these calls have been misguided as many from outside the political science community persist with the notion of electoral reform as a panacea that will transform the quality of our politicians overnight.

It doesn’t matter what type of electoral system is used. The quality parliamentarians (although I have yet to see the evidence that bringing in a load of experts will improve the Dáil: how did Martin O’Donoghue fare as Minister for Economic Planning and Development in the 1970s?) that John Rogers and other speak of are simply not interested in running for party political office. And who can blame them? Continue reading

The value of independent parliamentarians

Liam Weeks

The current government parties have 77 seats. The combined opposition of Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin have 75 seats. The balance of power in the Dáil is thus held by the 10 independent TDs, who include 2 ex-PDs, 4 former FF TDs (one of whom has resigned from the party), one FF gene pool TD, one former FG minister and 2 independents never elected on a party ticket, but one of whom supported Bertie Ahern in his third administration. Continue reading