Politicians ignore citizens at their peril

I’m currently reading José Saramago’s Seeing (a gift from a former student), which tells the story of how panic sets in among a city’s political classes after the vast bulk of the citizens cast a blank ballot in an election. It’s a great read, though I have to admit I thought the storyline a bit far-fetched. Even with all the problems of our political system are we ever likely to end up in a scenario where such large numbers of citizens are so angry that they simply refuse to engage in the political process at all? Granted, electoral turnout is in decline, but outside of the USA and Switzerland across most of the world’s democracies the bulk of citizens still vote.


To my mind Saramago’s image of a citizenry so turned off that they disengage completely from the political system just didn’t seem credible. That was until yesterday when I stood in the centre of Barcelona and witnessed Catalonia’s (now) annual independence day rally of September 11. Continue reading

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

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