A recent post on The Story blog (see here) reveals the government’s cynical move to introduce last minute changes to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill 2013 that will make FOI prohibitively expensive and therefore, in large part, unworkable. This (1) is contrary to what was promised and will put Ireland even more out of step with virtually all other countries, and (2) yet again demonstrates the need for real Dáil reform. Continue reading
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).
Oireachtas reform is a hot topic at present. Many cite the need for the Oireachtas to do its European Union-related work better as an objective justifying retaining the Seanad. Others claim the Dáil alone can do such work and more besides.
It seems worthwhile asking, therefore: just how well is the Oireachtas doing its European Union-related scrutiny and legislative work at present? Continue reading
Interested in how we can make our parliament fit for purpose? This public discussion on Dáil reform is open to anyone who thinks our Dáil can do more for democracy.
The debate in the run up to the Seanad referendum has not provided sufficient space for debate on wider reform of our parliamentary structures. Continue reading
Some weeks ago Fianna Fáil published a policy paper (for discussion) on Real Political Reform. Its focus is primarily on the Dáil and how it could be reformed. While the document appears to have attracted virtually no coverage whatsoever, it certainly warrants a read. I may not agree with all the proposals in this document, but there are some very interesting ones, for instance relating to: the need to elect the Ceann Comhairle, steps to free the Oireachtas from ‘complete’ government control, a new Oireachtas Office of Polity and Economic Oversight to provide expert support for TDs, more time for Continue reading
But much of the reform just tinkers with the details of when and where TDs will work. Working extra days or longer hours won’t achieve anything if the basic structures of the Dáil and its relationship with government are not addressed. Continue reading
Dr Seán Patrick Donlan, School of Law, University of Limerick
Predictably if depressingly, the debates around the Government referendum on the abolition of the Seanad have proven to be as ideological as intellectual, often more sophomoric than substantive. The vote honours a political promise initially made by parties and personalities now on both sides of the issue. Most of the membership of Fine Gael and the Labour Party, allied in this instance with strange bed-fellows Sinn Féin and the Socialist Party, want a YES vote. Fianna Fáil, who led coalition governments for the fourteen or so years before the debacle of the last general election only two years ago, are now campaigning for a NO result. Continue reading
Below I’ve pasted the announcement by the government for Dáil reform. One thing to note I suppose is that it is the government that does this and not the Dáil itself making its own rules. On the reforms themselves, the phrase ‘a day late and a dollar short’ comes to mind.
Dáil Reform Note
The Programme for Government outlined an ambitious agenda for Dáil Reform to be introduced in a phased process over the lifetime of this Government.
The first phase of Dáil Reforms introduced in the summer of 2011 included: Continue reading
In an op ed in today’s Irish Times, Dr Anthony O’Halloran reminds us of the important constituency service role played by our TDs (see here). He argues that Irish political commentators are universally negative about this role, painting it in negative tones and tending to suggest that such behaviour is atypical. While the article makes for an interesting read, I fear he may be exaggerating somewhat to make his point. Many of us would actually agree with him that constituency service does have an important role to play in our system of representative democracy. Politicians in all countries do partake in this sort of activity – to varying degrees. But the point at issue is that our politicians tend to be off the scale in the degree to which they focus on this dimension over and above their other roles (legislating, or holding government to account). Constituency service is a good thing, but it needs to be in proper proportion.
Some years ago I posted on this blog a tongue-in-cheek piece about TDs kissing chickens. The point I wanted to get across then (as now) is that while some features of constituency service are worthwhile and to be lauded, this must not be the be-all-and-end-all of the role of a TD.
Fine Gael launched its campaign to abolish the Seanad last week and this week, we finally got the date for the referendum. Political reform is back in the headlines and set to take up a reasonable chunk of the airtime during silly season. Seanad abolition is one of the central planks of the Government’s reform agenda. Whatever your views on the Seanad itself, this campaign reminds us that we are engaged in the most significant Continue reading