Why didn’t we riot?

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This is the text of an article published in the Sunday Business Post 22nd December 2013

On the night of 6th December 2008 there were widespread protests against the government in Athens. In one middle class district in the centre of Athens, Exarcheia, there were confrontations with the police. Police were ordered to leave the district, but two policemen decided to stay, parked their car, and followed a group of youths. It’s not clear what happened next, but one of the policemen shot Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a 15 year-old boy from a wealthy family, who attended a private school. This sparked a wave of rioting throughout Greece that lasted a number of weeks.

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The progress of the Irish Constitutional Convention to date

ccvenDeclaration of interest: The author is the research director of the Irish Constitutional Convention

The Irish Constitutional Convention has almost completed its work.  At its most recent meeting it dealt with the last of the eight topics assigned to it by the Government. All that remains is for the Convention to use its remaining time to consider ‘Any other Amendments’ — the focus of its final meetings early in the New Year.

On its establishment, the Convention was roundly criticised, with much of the criticism focused on the limited (and admitedly pretty eclectic) range of topics that it was given to consider.  Over the course of its deliberations minds have changed and many who were critical of it are less so today (see here for an example).

This post updates on an earlier analysis (see here) of the progress of the Convention to date. Continue reading

John Perry, James Reilly & the introduction of a Register of Debt

Elaine Byrne, University of New South Wales: 23 July 2013

It is with no small irony that the Minister with responsibility for Small Business consented yesterday to a judgment for €2.47m against him and his wife at the Commercial Court over unpaid loans. John Perry’s long-running difficulties with Danske Bank raise underlying questions about Ireland’s ethics framework and the need to introduce a register of debt for politicians, as is the case in Canada.

The Irish public do not know the extent to which Ministers are in debt and the conflicts of interest, if any, that such debt may incur. John Perry is not the only Irish Minister who has experienced serious financial difficulties.

Fine Gael Leader Enda Kenny campaigning in Ballymote, Co. Sligo.

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Avoiding short-term thinking in politics

Posted by Eoin O’Malley (7th January, 2013)

One of the most common complaints about democracy is that it shortens our rulers’ time horizons to an extent that damages our interests. If you are a hereditary absolute monarch, presumably you take a very long view, as you care about the inheritance you leave your children and grandchildren. But if you’re an elected politician you tend to think in terms of the next election.

Political scientists tend to assume that all politicians care about is re-election, and while this might be an oversimplification, it is hardly a controversial assumption. Then politicians think in four or five year cycles. Internationally there is some evidence, though it’s hardly overwhelming, Continue reading

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 http://www.irelandstat.gov.ie
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.

Should Ireland appoint non-parliamentary ministers?

Posted by Eoin O’Malley (20 July, 2012)

A central theme in constitutional politics is the separation of powers. The Irish constitution doesn’t refer to this directly, but it is implied and the courts have assumed that a separation of powers does exist. While we can reasonably argue that the judiciary is independent of the executive and legislature in practice (except that the executive appoints the judiciary), no such argument can be made for the separation of the legislature and the executive.

In parliamentary systems of government, the parliament appoints the government (executive) but more than this, in Ireland, as with many other places, the legislature appoints a government from among its own members. Continue reading

Dan O’Brien on seperating the roles of TD and Minister

Interesting article from Dan O’Brien in the Irish Times here, flagged up by Paul Hunt in a comment. Should Ministers also be TDs? A response that usually comes from the political system on this is that there is provision to nominate 2 ministers via the Seanad, though this very rarely happens. Would having a minister with a shred of economic training in the Finance portfolio have led to a better decision on the bank guarantee? Certainly, a little expertise couldn’t have hurt, the apocryphal image the late Minister Lenihan taking a crash course in economics while chewing raw garlic in David MacWilliams’ kitchen comes to mind.

Anyway, perhaps another issue that the Constitutional Convention should consider but won’t, unless it radically expands its agenda via the ’8th item’ (all other issues).