Parliaments, of which the Dáil and Seanad are no exception, are highly gendered institutions. Since the rules were written by men at a time in which women were not expected to participate in politics, the very norms, rules and culture of parliament conform to a male lifestyle. This is why the idea of maternity leave in politics is a problematic, at times controversial, one – lengthy periods away from office for child-bearing don’t ‘fit’ with institutional notions of representative democracy as politicians weren’t really meant to get pregnant in the first place. But, if the will is there, parliaments can be reconceptualised and reformed to catch up with the gendered realities of modern society.
By Michael Gallagher
Like most contributors to the site, I’m unconvinced by what little rationale has so far been offered for the abolition of the Seanad. First, no-one has seriously, or even flippantly, suggested that bicameralism is the cause of the current economic difficulties. Just what is the problem that abolition of the Seanad is supposed to solve? Second, while many Continue reading
The Irish Times has an interesting series this week on where we should go from here. Some of the ideas so far are insightful and thought provoking. Joseph O’Connor points to the huge programme of political reform which is needed and argues for a bottom up approach that envisages change coming from the people inlcuding citizens, artists and sportpeople among others. He points to the affinities we owe to one another, as citizens of this “still beautiful place”. Maureen Gaffney
on the other hand while also recognising the need for reform appears to be envisaging a more top down approach with a hankering for visionary leadership. Whether that is on offer is a moot point but there is surely a possibiity that the current elites may agree to a bottom up approach if only to assuage the current absence of trust in all polticians and the political system.
Adrian Kavanagh, 22nd November 2010
Could a separate youth constituency improve participation/representation levels amongst the younger section of the electorate? Continue reading
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
David Farrell (July 5, 2010)
The following letter appeared in today’s Irish Times:
Madam, – In recent times, I have wondered whether the collective membership of the Dáil has the ability to cope with matters of national importance, which impact on the daily lives of our citizenry. The low and blinkered level of debate relating to animal welfare has served to confirm my fears.
A significant sector of the present Dáil membership would be more at home in the chambers of local county councils. That sector’s vision will never extend beyond the parish pump and it has nothing to contribute to matters pertaining to our national parliament.
Yes indeed, reform of our electoral system is long overdue. – Yours, etc,
Is the author correct in blaming the electoral system for the quality of our politicians?