Electoral reform – Green agreement?

Th Irish Times today says The Greens have won commitments on electoral reform


It is also understood that the Greens have won some far-reaching concessions on electoral reform. The Electoral Commission will be asked within the next year to advise if the number of TDs in Dáil Eireann, currently 166, is too high. It will also be asked to review the voting age, which is currently 18.

One thought on “Electoral reform – Green agreement?

  1. Frankly, I regard this idea of an Electoral Commission as messing, on the basis that delay is the deadliest form of denial.

    Given the state of the public finances and the lack of trust in Government, we need clear leadership from the top of our governing system. It was for this reason that I made a personal submission to the Special Review Group chaired by Colm McCarthy.
    I set below an extract from this submission

    1. Dáil numbers.
    1.1 I propose that the Government
    1.1.1 immediately convene the Constituency Review Group in order to redraw boundaries on the basis of 1(one) Teachta Dála(TD) for every 30,000 people
    1.1.2 determine that the Constituency Review Group report within 2 months
    1.1.3 the recommendations of this Review Group take effect immediately
    1.1.4 declare the ratio of 1 TD for every 30,000 people be fixed for all general elections until at least 2021

    1.2 Consideration:
    If implemented, this would
    • be a very strong statement of how seriously the political class take the current situation in the public finances
    • reduce the number of TDs by 25 ie. 15 per cent of the 166 TDs
    • increase the population per TD by 4,488 from the average of 25,512 based on the 2006 Census ie. an increase of just over 17.5 per cent

    1.3 The number of TDs is governed by Article 16.2 of the Constitution which states

    1° Dáil Éireann shall be composed of members who represent constituencies determined by law.
    2° The number of members shall from time to time be fixed by law, but the total number of members of Dáil Éireann shall not be fixed at less than one member for each thirty thousand of the population, or at more than one member for each twenty thousand of the population.
    3° The ratio between the number of members to be elected at any time for each constituency and the population of each constituency, as ascertained at the last preceding census, shall, so far as it is practicable, be the same throughout the country.
    4° The Oireachtas shall revise the constituencies at least once in every twelve years, with due regard to changes in distribution of the population, but any alterations in the constituencies shall not take effect during the life of Dáil Éireann sitting when such revision is made.
    5° The members shall be elected on the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.
    6° No law shall be enacted whereby the number of members to be returned for any constituency shall be less than three.

    1.4 This does not need any change in the constitution. The only thing that needs to be done is to apply the existing well-established process used to review constituency boundaries following the census of the population.
    1.5 This reduction by 15 per cent from the existing 166 TDs fits very well with the current trends in economic activity.
    For the 1973 general election, there were 144 TDs for a smaller population. This was subsequently raised to 148 TDs for the 1977 general election and to the current number for the 1981election. In setting the level of representation, the tendency has been to use the lower limit of one TD for every 20,000 of the population.
    I suggest that the number of TDs has little or no effect on the effectiveness of our way of governing ourselves – either in terms of the formation of the Government (executive) or the way in which the legislature works.
    1.6 Fixing the ratio of TDs to population at the upper limit until 2021 does not change, in any way, the constitutional obligation to review the constituencies at periods of not less than 12 years. But it does allow for a review of constituency boundaries after each census, as has become habitual.

    1.7 We in the Republic of Ireland have more TDs per head of population than the average of 21 smaller EU member states, as shown in Figure 1. This average is just over 35,000 people per Member of the lower house of Parliament. Changing our ratio of TDs to population to 1 per 30,000 would still result in having a higher ratio of TDs/population than the average for these 21 EU Member states.

    Figure 1. Population per Member of Parliament
    Comparison in 21 EU Member States
    Sources: Eurostat, Inter Parliamentary Union

    (I cannot find a way to put my figure into this post. Any ideas?)

    1.8 In compiling Figure 1, I have
    • Focused on the 21 EU member states which have populations ranging from 21.5m in Romania to just over 400,000 in Malta
    • Omitted the larger EU member states (France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, UK) which have populations ranging from Poland’s 38m to Germany’s 82m.
    1.9 Note that of these 21 Member States, 14 have unicameral legislatures ie. there is not a second chamber of Parliament – the exceptions being Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Ireland, Nederland, Romania and Slovenia.
    1.10 For comparison sake, I set out the position of three other smaller non-EU members states
    • New Zealand 1 Member of unicameral Parliament per 34,779 people
    • Norway 1 Member of unicameral Parliament per 28,031 people
    • Switzerland 1 member of the bi-cameral Federal Parliament per 37,500 people

    2 Reducing the size of the Cabinet
    2.1 I suggest reducing the number of members of the Government to seven.
    2.2 This does not need a change in the Constitution, as the number of members of the Government is determined by Article 28.1 of the Constitution, which states
    1. The Government shall consist of not less than seven and not more than fifteen members who shall be appointed by the President in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
    2.3 This change implies for a considerable recasting of how Government works. It would also enable a more meaningful role for Ministers of State.
    2.4 This change would require no more changes in practice and legislation than is needed when the functions of Government Ministers and Departments are changed from time to time eg. after elections, during reshuffles
    2.5 This concentration of power in fewer people needs to be balanced by greater use of checks and balances on the Government as the executive eg. extending the Freedom of Information Act, more powers and resources to Oireachtas committees to investigate the executive side of government.

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