Professional politicians and political reform. (Matt Wall)

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.

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Some thoughts on ‘Inside the department’ – posted by Matt Wall

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).

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Political reform proposals suggested by former members of the Oireachtas

NOTES ON PROPOSALS FOR POLITICAL REFORM MADE AT SEMINAR OF THE IRISH PARLIAMENTARY (FORMER MEMBERS) SOCIETY HELD IN THE DAIL CHAMBER ON FRIDAY JANUARY 21ST 2011.

Posted on behalf of Gemma Hussey by David Farrell (March 2, 2011)

1. A draft of expenditure proposals in the Budget should be published six weeks in advance with a view to an open debate on the Government’s proposals.

2. The powers of the Public Accounts Committee should be extended to enable it to check for effectiveness, viz performance versus promise. The Committee should be empowered to require the attendance of Ministers. Continue reading

Fianna Fail reform: radical but too late?

Fianna Fail has released their manifesto today. There is a large section on political reform, covering some 8 pages. In many ways these are radical proposals, the pity is that none were even considered over the past 13 years.

Crucially, there appears to be some measure of joined up thinking. For example, the party only proposes abolishing the Senate if measures to increase the power of TDs and reduce the dominance the executive are first enacted. Continue reading

Parliament must lead and ask serious questions of itself

This is a truncated version of the speech delivered by Dr Maurice Manning at the launch of The Houses of The Oireachtas on 25 November 2010

The Irish Parliament is one of the oldest continuously surviving parliaments in the world. Aside from its earliest years, its legitimacy has never been seriously questioned; it has provided stable government and generally has done most of the things that are traditionally expected of a parliament. But when I say the Oireachtas has justified most of the traditional expectations of a parliament, a question immediately arises. Put simply, it is the fact that most of our other major traditional institutions have been found seriously wanting in the events leading up to the present great crisis. Continue reading

Olli Rehn’s proverbial kick up the behind

Posted by Elaine Byrne

Will Oli Rehn’s call for long-term Irish economic planning at long last give the government the proverbial kick up the behind to get the Irish decision making process in order?

The short-termism that dominates Irish decision making was best demonstrated by the myopic and stupid decision in 1977 to abolish rates which has ever since undermined local government capability. I have written before how policy debate in Ireland involves whipping up emotions rather than cogent debate.

The OECD have continuously criticised Ireland for not fully introducing regulatory impact analysis (RIA) into decision making processes. RIA’s deter the crisis-led approach or kite-flying that characterises how decisions tend to be made in Ireland. Instead we we need to embrace evidence-based policymaking which allows for a systematic early consideration of the benefits, costs and compliance issues of new legislation. Effective public sector reform would open up decision-making to interested stakeholders and the wider public rather than our traditional Civil Service-led policy approach. For outline on how RIA’s work, see here:

Fine Gael dusts off some old policy documents to propose a reinvention of government

Post by David Farrell, November 8, 2010

Fine Gael’s latest policy document — in part a rehash of existing policies, in part some new ideas — is to be welcomed not least because it helps to keep reform on the policy agenda. While it’s launch may not have gone as smoothly as the leadership would have liked, the document does deserve close reading.  It makes useful proposals in a range of areas, most notably:

  • Making governmental processes more open and transparent
  • Regulating lobbying
  • Reducing the costs of government (again, Seanad abolition makes a showing)
  • Civil service reform
  • Reform of the budgetary process

This is a start: we can only hope that much more is to follow. Will the other parties follow suit and publish their plans for political reform?

O’Toole Lays His Cards on the Table

By Matt Wall

Fintan O’Toole’s summary of the reforms that he proposes in his new book: ‘Enough is Enough’  advocates ’30 key steps’ to that we need to take to reform democracy in Ireland – many of which have been debated intensely on this site. 

Some of these are more contested than others, there are well-rehearsed arguments on either side of the electoral reform and gender quota debates for instance – but I think he is to be applauded for laying out a suite of concrete proposals for debate. Hopefully this is a signal that we are starting to look towards the future, so that we don’t end up repeating the mistakes of the past.

If Not Now, When? Why we need parliamentary reform.

Posted by Matt Wall.

Gay Mitchell’s article in this morning’s Irish Times again raises the issue of Oireachtas reform. While the text of the article focuses on the development of the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, Mitchell lays out 7 steps that he feels would improve parliamentary oversight writ large. I would love to see peoples’ comments on these, but I would like to focus here on the broader topic of parliamentary reform. Because, let’s face it, there is little evidence at this point that any serious reforms are even being considered.

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Seminar on Civil Society and Public Policy in Ireland

Posted by David Farrell

The Martin McEvoy Annual Seminar Series 2010 is entitled Politics, Participation and Power – Civil Society and Public Policy in Ireland. This year’s series will examine the role of civil society in public policy formulation. The seminars will be held in the Bea Orpen Building in Dublin City University on at 10.00 am – 12.15 pm on Friday 22nd October, Friday 5th November and Friday 19th 2010. Continue reading