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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
By Eoin O’Malley (15 February, 2012)
SIPO last night released details for candidate election expenses – set out here. They provide useful information as to what candidates spent their money on in the campaign and how much each spent. They are less useful, however, for disclosing where each candidate’s money came from. We can see, for instance, that Gay Mitchell spent €527, 152, making him the highest spending candidate, but still well below the spending limit of €750,000. But we have no idea where the money came from, as none of his donations exceeded €634.87. Martin McGuinness spent just over €300k, but received a bit over €4,000 in disclose-able donations. Much of the money from these candidates will have been raise in the form of donations of less than €634. A lot of it may have come from their parties, and donations to the parties will be disclosed separately (this may benefit parties as a donor can give to a party and to a candidate used for the same campaign but not disclosed as such). And some of the money spent may have come in the form of bank loans. Continue reading
Posted by David Farrell (February 6, 2012)
Reports are circulating that the government is about to take steps to deal with Ireland’s terrible shortcomings on Freedom of Information and Whistleblowers legislation (to be blogged about when more is known). Both measures were promised in the Programme for Government and they are important steps on the road to making Irish government more open and transparent. But there is so much more that is needed, and high on the list should be ending the disgraceful practice of allowing our elected representatives to claim expenses without having to provide receipts – ‘unvouched expenses’ to use the jargon of Irish government. The Programme for Government also promised to end this practice, but so far there is no sign of any action. As was widely reported in the media last week, TDs (and Senators) have access to generous allowances to cover travel and accommodation. What was not reported on is just how many of them still continue to opt for unvouched expenses, which prevents any financial scrutiny of the claims. Continue reading
Posted by David Farrell (January 14, 2012)
Two areas greatly in need for reform are funding of politics and the operation of the Dáil – both in the news today (see here and here). In fairness to the government, some move has been made on both agendas (more generally, see here): legislation has been brought in relating to donations to political parties; and there have been changes to how the Dáil operates including the introduction of Friday sittings. Continue reading