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.
Here are some edited highlights of the Deliberative Democracy conference held in the Royal Irish Academy some weeks ago, including interviews with the participants there – some of the world’s leading experts on deliberative democracy in practice – on the prospects for the Irish Constitutional Convention.
John Drennan’s Sindo article points to growing backbench opposition to the government’s proposed referendum on abolishing the Seanad. This development is unsurprising, given the tightness of electoral margins in Ireland’s political system and the personal investment of Oireachtas members in retaining their positions (although, as we all know, the pension’s not too bad if you do get the boot). However, the naked self-interest on display in this debate is enough to sicken even a seasoned observer of the venality of the Irish political class.
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).
Really interesting debate on the government’s plans to involve citizens in Irish constitutional reform with contributions from: this site’s Elaine Byrne, Conor O’Mahony, a constitutional law expert from UCC, and Oliver Moran from the Second Republic civil society group. Labour’s Alex White gamely defending the government’s performance and plans to date – though he was batting on a sticky wicket on many specific points. I get the feeling that many Labour members are feeling rather shortchanged on their party’s campaign promise to completely re-write the Constitution by 2016. If you didn’t catch it last night, it’s well worth a watch on the TV3 player.
So I recently learned that The Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011 will soon be passed as law. Looks like some really progressive stuff, especially when you look at the ongoing hyper monetization of politics that is taking place in the usa. I can’t wait to see the parties publish comprehensive accounts, which should let the media, academia, and general public keep a closer eye on how we fund our politics.
Here is a link to the ‘The Week in Politics’ coverage of the political reform debate on RTE last night – Brian Dowling’s report touches on a lot of key themes, and much of the discussion explores important ideas. Definitely worth a watch IMO. I’ve posted some reactions of my own below…
From Eoin Daly (posted by Jane Suiter)
2012 marks the 75th anniversary of our Constitution. The present Government has committed to establishing a “constitutional convention” this year, as part of its political reform agenda and on foot of the Programme for Government. However, the convention will serve essentially as an advisory group, constituted of citizens and elected representatives. Moreover, its remit looks set to be surprisingly limited, focusing on a handful of issues including blasphemy law and the duration of the presidential term. Disappointingly, it appears that it will not address crucial issues such as executive dominance, or the codification and strengthening of constitutional rights in key areas. Continue reading
Posted by David Farrell (January 24, 2012)
In an interesting piece in today’s Irish Times (see here), Peadar Kirby and Mary P. Murphy make a persuasive case for involving ordinary citizens in the constitutional convention that the government is anticipated to establish in the very near future.
While they take issue with the approach proposed by We The Citizens (which some of us involved in this blog were also involved with), they share the same fundamental ambition of actively engaging with citizens in the process of political and constitutional reform that this government has promised (and hopefully will start delivering on soon). Continue reading
Posted by David Farrell (November 1, 2011)
Here’s the link for the new book by Peadar Kirby and Mary P. Murphy, entitled Towards a Second Republic: Irish Politics after the Celtic Tiger (Pluto, 2011). The blurb reads as follows:
Towards a Second Republic analyses Ireland’s economics, politics and society, drawing important lessons from its cycles of boom and bust. Peadar Kirby and Mary Murphy expose the winners and losers from the current Irish model of development and relates these distributional outcomes to the use of power by Irish elites. The authors examine the role of the EU and compare Ireland’s crisis and responses to those of other states. More than just an analysis of the economic disaster in Ireland, the book is also a proposal to construct new and more effective institutions for the economy and society. It is a must read for students of Irish politics and political economy.