At last, some real Dáil reform!

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Last week the Dáil passed a government motion to make three important changes to Standing Orders (in typical Dáil fashion with little debate). In summary, the changes that will be in operation from the start of the next Dáil session are:

  • A secret ballot to elect the Ceann Comhairle,
  • Use of d’Hondt formula to allocate Oireachtas committee chair positions proportionate to party size in the chamber (with the tradition remaining that the main opposition party controls the Public Accounts Committee), and
  • A requirement that twice a year the Taoiseach appear before the Working Group of Committee Chairs.

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How should candidates for the position of Ceann Comhairle be nominated?

More hints are emerging about the government’s intentions relating to the election of the next Ceann Comhairle.  As reported in a recent post, the government is about to propose a change to Dáil standing orders so that the Ceann Comhairle of the next Dáil will be elected by a secret ballot of all members.  As a number of us have argued for some time, this is an important first step towards making future governments more accountable to the Dáil. (My colleagues and I will be setting out more detailed proposals on Dáil reform this coming Wednesday morning.)

But in order to make this reform meaningful careful thought also needs to be given to the nomination procedure, and here — unfortunately — the reports of government intentions are not promising.   Continue reading

The government continues to slight the work of the Constitutional Convention

In the light of the marriage equality and presidential age referendums last week – both the product of recommendations of the Constitutional Convention, a review of the current state of play of government responses to the Convention’s recommendations is timely.

The attached table gives the current situation as of today: ICC recommendations as of May 2015 Continue reading

A tale of two referendums

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On Friday the Irish will vote on two issues. Both are being sold as reforms, one a social reform, the other a political reform. Both can be said to have come from the the ‘People’ via the Constitutional Convention. If polls are even broadly accurate one will pass comfortably, the other will be easily defeated.

Why will the marriage referendum pass and the proposal to lower the age of eligibility for election to the office of the President be defeated? The major difference is the genesis of the proposals. The marriage referendum is a result of years of campaigning Continue reading

The ‘Spring Economic Statement’: yet another missed opportunity for real political reform

The Spring Economic Statement delivered today (see here) represents a very belated dipping of the toe in the water towards greater budgetary transparency by the government. We were promised this in 2011. The fact that it’s finally starting to happen four years later and coincidentally on the eve of the next election – is noteworthy. But at least it’s a start!

The cost of being more up front about budgetary plans is that the opposition is given an opportunity to criticize the government over its budgetary direction. To a degree this is all to be expected. But – not for the first time – the government has left itself unnecessarily vulnerable. And, again – not for the first time – the cause of this is lack of transparency. Continue reading

Could the call for radical Seanad reform re-ignite debate over Oireachtas reform?

Posted by David Farrell, April 13, 2015

The Report of the Working Group on Seanad Reform was published earlier today (see here). It was given a limited range of options: no change, minor change, or major change (but not involving constitutional reform). In opting for the latter the working group has defied most expectations (certainly mine), and in so doing has potentially re-opened the far more important debate over the need for radical Oireachtas reform. Continue reading