Political parties, like other public bodies, need to have their accounts fully audited

The ongoing standoff between the Minister for the Environment and the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) is yet another signal of just how much this government has backtracked on its supposed commitment to open government.

At the heart of this issue is what level of party accounts should be made available for auditing and public scrutiny. The Minister (and in fairness, it seems all the other parties with him – I stand ready to be corrected on this ☺) is of the view that the legislation (the Electoral (Political Funding) Act, 2012) requires that the parties need to only audit their national accounts. SIPO disagrees. As a letter this week from the outgoing SIPO Chair (published on their website here) makes clear their legal advice, on the contrary, is that the auditing should also extend to the sub-national units (i.e. the party branches) of the parties’ organizations. Continue reading

Democracy in the planning process


Dr. Deiric Ó Broin, NorDubCo

I present the third opinion piece in context of the debate on Local Government Reform, organised by the Regional Studies Association – Irish Branch.

The package of proposals contained in the Local Government Bill, 2013, the Report of the Local Electoral Area Boundary Committee and the Final Report of the Local Government/Local Development Alignment Steering Group, taken in conjunction with the introduction of the Residential Property Tax and the incorporation of enterprise development bodies in local government represent the most significant set of local government reforms articulated by an Irish government since the introduction of the city/county manager system.

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Ministerial responsibility, policy design and implementation

At a conference in the IPA recently there was some talk about changes in how ministers and civil servants are held accountable, and for what they are held accountable. The traditional doctrine of ministerial responsibility, set out in the Ministers and Secretaries Act 1924, hold the minister to be the Corporation Sole, so s/he is legally responsible for every action of the department. This is obviously not very realistic and few would subscribe to the view of the UK Health Secretary Aneurin Bevan that the sound of a bedpan falling in his local hospital should reverberate in the Palace of Westminster.

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Let’s think about the type of inquiry that will work before we set one up


The current calls for some form of inquiry into the economic collapse and the government’s response to it are understandable in the light of the Anglo tapes. While they probably didn’t reveal much that we hadn’t already suspected, their tone was abhorrent to most. What is not reasonable is that we concentrate our blame on the banks for the debacle. They were probably doing what any interest group does when looking for government assistance – they bluff. Continue reading

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

Political Corruption in Ireland 1922-2010, A Crooked Harp?

Posted by Elaine Byrne

Below is an extended chapter outline of my book, Political Corruption in Ireland 1922-2010, A Crooked Harp? published by Manchester University Press, launched last week. Outline of my book. Buy it on Amazon. The book is about to enter its second print run. Thank you for all your support to date.

I am very grateful to the Irish political science and historical academic community for the time they contributed to this project, particularly Michael Marsh, Kevin Whelan, Sean McGraw, Maurice Manning, Stuart Gilman, Michael Gallagher, David McCullagh, Eoin O’Dell, Raj Chari, Peter Murtagh, Ronan Fanning, Felix Larkin, Patrick Holden, Myles Dungan, Maura Adshead, Tom Lodge, Gary Murphy, Eunan O’Halpin and Jac Hayden. The work of Transparency International Ireland, especially John Devitt, on the National Integrity Study was hugely constructive.


1: Introduction
Towards a new definition
Towards a new definition – clientelism and brokerage
Towards a new definition – mediated corruption

2: Why so little corruption? 1900s-20s
Administrative legacies of British rule: conditions for Irish probity
Context: ministers and the £4.9:6 civil war restaurant bill
Unsung heroes: A civil service obsession with probity

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Mahon: transparency vital in future

From Nuala Haughey, Advocacy and Research Officer, Transparency International Ireland

As the Mahon report rightly states, corruption thrives in shadows and darkness. The twilight world of political finances – and the toxic nexus between business and political parties – is an obvious area where the disinfectant properties of sunlight are much needed.

The Mahon report echoes the Moriarty report in emphasising that disclosure must be the bedrock of all attempts to control corruption risks associated with money in politics.

Transparency International Ireland believes that detailed disclosure by political parties and candidates of assets, income and expenditures, together with adequate oversight and enforcement, is the starting point of any decent regulatory framework. Continue reading