A couple of interesting stories in the Irish media today caused me to re-consider the notion that political reform should be the exclusive domain of elected politicians. With their electoral mandates, experience of the day-to-day functioning of political institutions and (in Ireland, at least) their exclusive right to initiate constitutional change, our professional politicians certainly have more claim than most other social groups or organisations to take the lead on this issue.
Guest post by R.K. Carty (posted by David Farrell, March 13, 2012)
March 3, 2012 may mark the second most important date in Fianna Fáil history. On the 16th of May 1926, De Valera, Lemass and their gang took a deliberate decision to create a new organization themselves. Now, eighty-six years later, Martin and Dorgan have chosen to act as midwives to a party seeking to be reborn. Continue reading
Post by David Farrell (July 12, 2011)
It is not just political systems that need to be reformed from time to time, parties also need to go through a process of renewal if they’re to survive the trials and tribulations of electoral politics. As reported in today’s Irish Times, Fianna Fáil’s parliamentary party met yesterday to have a full and frank discussion about its future and about how it might change and adapt in the light of its recent electoral defeat. This is an entirely understandable move by the party leadership as it seeks to find a way back to electoral success in future elections. Continue reading
Posted by Elaine Byrne
The editors of this website, Elaine Byrne, David Farrell, Eoin O’Malley, Jane Suiter and Matt Wall, published an opinion piece in the Irish Times today arguing that the path to rebuilding a Republic should start with a citizens’ assembly. So what is it?
A Citizens’ Assembly is a means of citizens recapturing trust in their political process by taking ownership of the decision making process. It is an experiment that has had terrific results in many parts of the world. The strengths and shortcomings of this deliberative process were discussed on this site here and the recent Icelandic case here. Prof Ken Carty gave a recent presentationin Trinity outlining a practical example of a citizens’ assembly in action.
It involves rational, reasoned discussion with a cross- section of an entire population and uses various methods of inquiry such as directly questioning experts. It is not adversarial, although disagreement is inevitable and is valued, not stifled. A Citizens’ Assembly values creativity and tends to build consensus rather than creating winning and losing sides – but there is no requirement of unanimity. Deliberative processes are not meant to replace representative or direct democracy, but to enhance and support it.
Ken McDonagh 13 April 2011
Vincent Browne has a new bugbear – party finance. In today’s Irish Times he writes: ‘The only reason anyone would give money to a political party is because they expect to get something in return’
He goes on to link the problem of private funding for political parties to the disproportionate representation of the views of the very wealthy, (to read the full article click here) however his proposed solution is neither fair nor practical.
This is due to the fact that Vincent has misidentified the problem, the transactional nature of political support is not the core of the issue – namely the willingness to donate in order to have your view represented, essentially this is the same logic as voting – the problem is the relative difference in power and influence between the very wealthy and the ordinary citizens produced by the ability of the former to use their substantial financial resources to influence policy makers. Continue reading
Eoin O’Malley (28 February, 2011)
Although the election was a seismic event in the redevelopment of the Irish party system, the decisions made in the next week as to the structure of the government will have a greater long term impact. The decision Labour has to take as to whether to go into government or not seems to have already been taken if we consider the noises made by senior Labour members at the weekend. But if the party were considering more than getting bums on seats in ministerial mercs (or the share of a Prius) then it should pause for thought. Continue reading
By Jane Suiter
The campaign we have just witnessed is unusual in Irish party political terms and may be one of the first where national policy has played an important part. There is little doubt when we examine movements in opinion polls over the course of the campaign that Fine Gael ran the most effective operation. The campaign post mortems have not really begun in earnest but a common theme in those that have appeared so far has been the effectiveness of the various media campaigns. These are undoubtedly important but I will leave it to another time to compare them in detail. More interesting perhaps, from a political science perspective is the underlying logic behind those messages.
Eoin O’Malley (15 February, 2011)
There’s is some degree of agreement in the opinion polls of all types (different companies, candidate based ballot paper questions and party questions, local polls and national polls) that over the course of the campaign Fine Gael has trended upwards and Labour downwards. As we can see from the Red C first preference vote trends, which is the only properly comparable trend of polls, that where Labour was within touching distance of Fine Gael in October and November (Millward Brown had Labour ahead of Fine Gael in September, but its estimates for Labour are usually above the Red C ones for some reason) since then Fine Gael has pulled away. The closeness of the race last autumn, with Kenny’s unpopularity, presumably gave rise to the ‘Gilmore for Taoiseach’ strategy. Continue reading
By Mel Farrell (Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) scholar, Department of History, NUI Maynooth
Election 2011 carries the potential to realign Irish politics. As such, this electoral contest promises to take its place among the critical elections of Irish history in 1918, 1922 and 1932. Going on the opinion polls, Fianna Fáil, the dominant force of Irish politics since 1932, entered the campaign fighting for its political survival.
Having stabilised in the first week of electioneering at around 16-18% in most polls, it seems as though Fianna Fáil will have a critical mass of deputies in the next Dáil. In that regard, this election seems set to more closely resemble that of 1932 than that which saw Sinn Féin sweep the boards in 1918, obliterating the Irish parliamentary party in the process. In 1932, the outgoing government wasn’t subjected to an electoral meltdown, but arguably never recovered from the defeat. No doubt glad to avoid the fate of the Home Rule party in 1918, should Fianna Fáil today take solace in that which awaited their arch rivals in Cumann na nGaedheal in 1932?