A couple of interesting stories in the Irish media today caused me to re-consider the notion that political reform should be the exclusive domain of elected politicians. With their electoral mandates, experience of the day-to-day functioning of political institutions and (in Ireland, at least) their exclusive right to initiate constitutional change, our professional politicians certainly have more claim than most other social groups or organisations to take the lead on this issue.
A link here to the RTE Player’s version of ‘Inside the Department’, a documentary that provides some interesting insights into the realities of governance in today’s Ireland. Among other things, it documents the difficulty of leading a department that you have verbally eviscerated in opposition (“malevolently dysfunctional” is a particularly good catchphrase).
John Drennan’s Sindo article points to growing backbench opposition to the government’s proposed referendum on abolishing the Seanad. This development is unsurprising, given the tightness of electoral margins in Ireland’s political system and the personal investment of Oireachtas members in retaining their positions (although, as we all know, the pension’s not too bad if you do get the boot). However, the naked self-interest on display in this debate is enough to sicken even a seasoned observer of the venality of the Irish political class.
Here is a link to the ‘The Week in Politics’ coverage of the political reform debate on RTE last night – Brian Dowling’s report touches on a lot of key themes, and much of the discussion explores important ideas. Definitely worth a watch IMO. I’ve posted some reactions of my own below…
From Clodagh Harris
Research shows that people have ‘become more and more disenchanted with the traditional institutions of representative government, detached from political parties, and disillusioned with old forms of civic engagement and participation’ (Yetano, Royo and Acrete, 2010: 783).
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
Pat Leahy (posted by David Farrell, October 28, 2011)
Here is the text of Sunday Business Post’s Pat Leahy’s remarks to the 2011 Kenmare Economics conference
The Irish economic crash has been turbo charged by a profound failure of our politics and our political system to comprehend the economic realities of the world, to be self-aware, to regulate its own desires and ultimately to practise good government
Moreover these failures are represented at every level of the political system, from government ministers to TDs, to the political and wider media that regulate and conduct our national debate, to local authorities to individual voters. They also, I am afraid, extend to economists.
These failures happened not just because of a series of bad policy decisions, but because of something much deeper than that: because they reflect our political culture. Continue reading
The left wing think tank Tasc yesterday released a series of essays. One was written anonymously allegedly by a senior civil servant. The Irish Times reported on it here. Much of the language is similar to posters on here. It derides a culture of secrecy, and argues that our inherited political, institutional and legal framework is no longer ‘fit for purpose’ (if it ever was) to permit Irish Society to re-create itself. It poses interesting questions and attempts to provide some answers.
Very interesting article from Shane Ross on Sunday about his perspective on the ‘contest’ for the PAC chairmanship. If you didn’t get to read it, I’d suggest following the link for a look.
This is a story that went relatively unnoticed in the Irish weekend radio/newspaper coverage that I picked up from Amsterdam, but it seems to me to be quite telling. The story builds on Jane’s earlier post about the depth and impact of the reforms that the new government has undertaken to the Committee system. This insider account of the nomination process for the PAC chairmanship reinforces Jane’s conclusion that ’ The parties still nominate and divvy up the chairmanships’.
In recent days there have been reports of widespread nepotism continuing with Irish political parties. assistants and drivers who are family members. Some of those involved have justified this by citing the involvement of those given the work in electoral work over a number of years.
The Oireachtas spokesman told Joe Duffy today that all those receiving jobs are vetted by an outside HR agency and meet basic competency requirements for the jobs.
At the same time Enda Kenny insists that these are personal rather than party appointments and thus while he disapproves he cannot stop them. Eamon Gilmore appears to have a similar position. In fact it is some of Labour’s so-called younger brighter stars who have employed family. While all of those involved probably have the ability to do the job there is a serious question to be asked about the continuing perception of cronyism and indeed direct patronage in Irish politics.
On a related note it appears that committee chairs have been “informed” who they will be, this is arguably another form of patronage. Allowing the chairs to be elected could have done much to increase the power of the legislature vis a vis the executive.