Incrementalism or radical reform

By Jane Suiter

Writing in The Irish Times Eoin Daly of DCU argues that citizens should have access to non-sectarian public schools. While the argument is interesting in and of itself what appears to be at the heart of it is a kind of radical reform where, instead of the usual incrementalism typical of Irish public policy making, we ask what sort of system is it we want for the future and design for that. In many ways this can be applied to policy making in most government departments, where many things happen simply because they have always been done this way. Is it the case that if we are to reimagine Ireland then we need to look at all areas where vested interests have had an overly substantial input into policy making in the past? Some possible questions arising are whether our Ministers should be bound by precedent, or should they engage in radical reform? And if they do what are their chances of seeing come to fruition in the face of a possibly unenthusiastic public service?

Deliberative Democracy and Political Reform


By Dr Gemma Carney and Dr Clodagh Harris

For most voters a sense of déjà vu follows the publication of the Moriarty Report. It appears that relations between the then FG Minister for Communications Michael Lowry and the winner of Ireland’s second mobile phone licence were at best inappropriate. The question again arises: what can be done to clean up politics? Are there alternatives to a populist form of democracy where bad candidates get re-elected on the basis of local issues or lack of alternatives? The current recession has led to lack of legitimacy in a range of public institutions (banks, regulators, corporate sector and politicians). The idea that political reform is necessary is accepted. How reform is achieved is another matter. Deliberative processes may be one way through which this can be achieved. Continue reading

ReformCard: a tool to help voters decide

The editors and contributors behind polticalreform.ie have teamed with a large volunteer team of project managers, web designers and others to produce ReformCard a measurement tool to rank each party based on the quality of their policies on political reform.  We hope this will prove a critical instrument in informing the election 2011 debate. It provides the 25 proposals for political reform in Ireland which we believe provide the best possible combination to transform the political system and ensure it is fit for purpose in the 21st century. Continue reading

China’s Long March to Modernity

Beijing’s response to the award of the Nobel Peace Price to a leading
Chinese dissident tells us something important about the country’s
transition

By Joern-Carsten Gottwald, Neil Collins and Andrew Cottey

For the first time in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize a citizen of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was awarded this most prestigious award. And for the first time, nobody was in Oslo to receive the award. Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese professor of literature and democratic activist, spent the day in a Chinese jail. His wife was not allowed to leave the country. She is
held in virtual custody in her Beijing apartment. Other representatives of China’s intelligentsia were not allowed to leave the country. As the result of a furious campaign of the Chinese leadership, a group of countries decided not to let their Ambassadors to Norway attend the ceremony. For good reasons, the European Union for once did not let itself be bullied. 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

Party Games: Pay to Play

Posted by Kenneth McDonagh, Dec 3rd 2010

One of the recurrent themes of the recent debates on political reform has been the lack of engagement and/or connection between ordinary citizens and the political system. The public ranges between rage and apathy when it comes to the question of how to influence politics. Calls for electoral reform are criticised because the voters will always get the government they deserve regardless of how you count up the preferences. Calls for institutional reform may be doomed to failure because the same party minions toiling under the same party whips will find themselves in these new institutions, you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Or in social science terms: Garbage in, Garbage out.

Continue reading

So you want to help write your constitution?

Icelandic political scientist Silja Bara Omarsdottir writes about waking up as a newly elected representative to the country’s new constitutional assembly here. The assembly is a direct result of the Pots and Pans Revolution which took place in Iceland after the banking crisis tanked the country’s economy just over two years ago. Should we think about doing something similar here?

Radical poltical reform needed

In his weekly column in The Irish Times yesterday Stephen Collins argued cogently that radical political reform will be an urgent task of the new government

Collins argues that it is now blindingly obvious that our multi-seat system of proportional representation played a big role in bringing us to where we are. “The system throws up elected representatives who are good at constituency work but who have little interest in, or capacity for, policy debate or innovative thinking.” His prescription is the introduction of single-seat constituencies with a top-up by a list system to retain proportionality.

The problem is that if the electoral system is to be changed it will not work on its own. Collins and many of us would like to see the emergence of quality legislators who have the interest and ability to understand the national interest and to prioritise it. The electoral system may or may not be central to that but what is crucial is changing the system in which our elected representatives operate. The Dáil at the moment is simply a talking shop, a “joke” as Richard Bruton put it at a recent PSAI meeting. Legislators largely read prepared scripts to a largely empty house. The whip system ensures that they have little or no influence on policy. Simply electing them by another means will not change that. Continue reading

An election more powerful than consensus?

Many people seem to believe that a cross party consensus on a four-year economic plan is a good thing. While agreement  that the budget needs to brought back towards balance is positive, demanding  agreement on the policies necessary to get there is nonsense. What we need is an election and a government that has a mandate to deliver a budget and a four-year plan that will bring the economy back from the abyss. Continue reading

Do we need geographical constituencies?

Michael Gallagher (6th September, 2010)

Concerns are raised from time to time, not just in this country, that geographical representation in parliament creates behaviour among legislators that is not consistent with the national interest. Legislators elected, under whatever electoral system, from geographical constituencies have an obvious incentive to put the interests of their constituents first even when a “rational” decision-making process might require acknowledging that not every local interest should be defended to the death. They might indeed argue that this is not merely a matter of responding to electoral incentives but that protecting and advancing the interests of their constituents is part of their job. Continue reading