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

Enda, Joan, Micheal, Gerry: Who will be first to hang up that whip?

The (ab)use of parliamentary whips in the Dáil has been much in the news of late – most recently in the light of an internal survey of Fine Gael TDs by Deputy Eoghan Murphy that was reported in yesterday’s Irish Times (here).

Three-quarters of Fine Gael TDs (74%) favour a relaxation of the whip. That’s quite a lot of support for the proposition by anyone’s reckoning.

On this Blog site there have been many calls for serious engagement with parliamentary reform – moving beyond the tokenistic moves of the current government. The need is for proper parliamentary reform that rebalances the power between Dáil and government, making the government more accountable to the Dáil.

Relaxing the parliamentary whip, which is used more strictly here than in others parliaments in Europe, should be part of this process. But this is different from all the other proposed reforms (such as secret elections for the Ceann Comhairle and committee chairs, etc.) in one very important respect, and that is that there is no need for any change to the Constitution, no need for any new legislation, no need to alter the Dáil standing orders.

All that is needed for the parliamentary whip to be relaxed is for one of the party leaders to announce that they will make this change for their party. The first to make this move will be the one to signal that Dáil reform truly matters for their party. It would only be a matter of time before the other party leaders would be forced to follow suit.

So, which party leader will move first?

Government U-turn on Votes at 16 shows its Contempt for the Dáil

Posted by David Farrell, January 1, 2015

When the government established the Irish Constitutional Convention it committed to providing a response to Dáil Éireann within four months of receipt of a Convention’s report. That this commitment is no longer being adhered to is a matter of some regret. But at least there have been responses to the first couple of reports by the Convention, and in some instances these have included firm commitments for action.

A case in point is the Convention’s recommendation to lower the voting age. Continue reading

Seanad Éireann: Lots to Reform

After the Irish people chose to retain the Seanad last year, the focus has now shifted to the question of reform. The government has announced its intention to reform the University franchise as allowed by the 1978 amendment to the Constitution. The main campaigning platform for Seanad retention, Democracy Matters, has embarked on a new campaign to argue for reform. The Royal Irish Academy recently held a symposium bringing experts on Bicameralism together to discuss the prospects for change.

The main focus of reform is on the extension of the franchise as envisaged in the Zappone-Quinn and Crown bills tabled last year. However David Farrell, in today’s Irish Times, points out Continue reading

Another set of milestones in the work of the Irish Constitutional Convention

In the week that’s in it….

Earlier today it was announced on the Irish Constitutional Convention’s website that the convention members have decided that the last two meetings of the convention shall be focused on Dáil reform and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. And reports suggest that this week we will have the formal government announcement that, following a recommendation by the constitutional convention, there will be a referendum on same-sex marriage in the lifetime of this government. Continue reading

Late changes to the Freedom of Information Bill 2013 – a cynical move

delayA 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