In elections it’s not just how votes are counted that matters

The first annual report of the highly influential Electoral Integrity Project has just been published (see here). Professor Pippa Norris and her colleagues have carried out an extensive survey of the electoral process across the world’s democracies over the past few years. Ireland’s last election (2011) preceded this project so it was not included on this occasion, but as the work of this project continues, our next election will come under scrutiny. Continue reading

Was Michael D. Higgins elected for his policy views?


President Michael D. Higgins has caused some controversy (though this might be too strong a word) for his more outspoken comments on some issues. In a speech he gave in DCU in September he was highly critical of neo-liberalism as an ideology and economics as a discipline. We should hardly be surprised. Most know where he stands on these issues, and given that, President Higgins has probably been restrained.

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NEW BOOK: The Irish Presidency: Power, Ceremony and Politics


Although the office of President of Ireland has attracted a great deal of public attention, especially since the election of Mary Robinson in 1990, the presidency has been the subject of little analysis. This gap in our knowledge of Irish politics is filled by this timely collection, which brings together a set of studies that explore the political role of the Irish presidency from a comparative perspective.

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Explaining media coverage of the 2011 election

Papers82There is an assumption in the literature on the media coverage of elections that it is being Americanised or ‘dumbed down’. Election coverage can be thought to vary on whether substantive policy issues are discussed or if the coverage centres on the likely result and/ or the parties’ electoral strategies. For instance in the last few days of the 2012 US Presidential election 20 Continue reading

The Quinn/ Zappone Bill – a fundamentally flawed measure


Post by Richard Humphreys SC

In order to offer a ‘workable’ reform that they claim could be on the statute books by Christmas the Quinn/ Zapponne Seanad Reform Bill makes a lot of compromises. Due to the constitutional limitations on what can and cannot be changed by an ordinary bill, the Zappone/Quinn Bill leaves in place a number of key features of the current system that are elitist or irrelevant. Continue reading

The Irish Constitutional Convention: citizen-oriented political reform in action

Declaration of interest: I am one of the members of the academic team advising the constitutional convention on its work programme.

The Irish Constitutional Convention is most of the way through its work programme. Many journalists and other commentators were  critical of the Convention when it was launched. But among those who have witnessed its proceedings the sense is that it has been a success (see, for instance, Harry McGee’s piece).  The Convention’s first report (on voting age and the presidential term of office) was discussed in the Dáil in July, just before the summer recess (see the ministerial statement here) where the government committed to holding referendums on three of the four recommendations made by the Convention and for the fourth item (on giving citizens a say in the nomination of presidential candidates) to be referred to the Environment committee for further consideration — overall, then, a pretty positive reaction by government (so far). 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

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