A political system friendly to independents but not to new parties

jfoley11aEvery day there is some opinion piece or other speculating about the possibility of a new political party emerging in Ireland. Journalistic eyes are peeled, watching every movement, signal or nuance from the likes of Lucinda Creighton, Michael McDowell, or any other obvious contenders seen as most likely to lead the way in establishing a new party. But how our political system is set up makes life very difficult for ambitious individuals aspiring to establish a new party. By contrast, it’s very easy for ambitious individuals wanting to run for office as independents. Continue reading

The Irish Constitutional Convention illustrates how ordinary citizens can play their part in the process after all

ccvenPost by Harry McGee, political correspondent The Irish Times. This article originally appeared in the Connacht Tribune, 12 June 2013

I have to say I was sceptical about the notion of a citizens’ assembly becoming part of official political discourse in Ireland. The idea is that rather than getting politicians to decide on new political direction, you get a representative group of people drawn from all strands of society – getting the demographics and geographics right, as Bertie Ahern kept on saying.

To me it seemed like an indulgence to political scientists – telling them all their Christmases had come Continue reading

The importance of properly targeted and citizen-focused reform

Posted by David Farrell (May 3, 2011)

The on-going British referendum debate on whether to change their electoral system from ‘first past the post’ to the alternative vote (the system we use to elect our President) should provide some salutary lessons. Almost regardless of the outcome – which most now expect to be a safe majority against reform – the tone of the debate reveals a lot about the dangers of leaping into a reform agenda that has not been properly thought through, and also one that had little if any popular buy-in from citizens at large. The reason for the British referendum was nothing more than a sop by the Conservatives to tie the Liberal Democrats into coalition. There was no consultation with the wider public in advance: the proposal was foisted on the electorate without as much as a by your leave – the ultimate in top-down decision-making. Continue reading

How can we stop our politicians kissing chickens?

David Farrell (February 20, 2011)

Early in the campaign I happened on a radio story in which the intrepid reporter was following a sitting TD on his election canvass. Everywhere the politician went he met with a positive reaction from his constituents. The basis of the whole story was that this was a politician in tune with his electorate, a popular constituency worker. As I switched off he was visiting a farm and kissing a chicken. No, this is not a typo; it wasn’t the proverbial child being kissed – the candidate kissed a chicken. Continue reading

Red herrings for a new republic

Eoin O’Malley (7 February, 2011)

Usually the preserve of academics and the dull newspaper articles of retired politicians, the reform of the political system is now being raised by ordinary people in vox pops and radio phone-ins. That means that many people are peddling their ideas about the reform of the political system that on the face of it seem valid, but if you scratch a bit below the surface are revealed to be irrelevant or wrong. Continue reading

Dermot Desmond’s manifesto for political reform

David Farrell (February 12 2011)

In today’s Irish Times, Dermot Desmond has published a manifesto for political reform. A full (27-page) version of the document is available here. Whatever views one may have about the messenger, there is no doubt about the significance of the proposals, some of which are pretty radical. It is interesting to see the overlap with the political reform proposals we’ve already seen from some of the parties – notably the similarity with Fianna Fáil’s proposal to force government ministers to give up their Dáil seats. Continue reading