MY TEN PROPOSALS FOR POLITICAL REFORM

Posted by Elaine Byrne

MY TEN PROPOSALS FOR POLITICAL REFORM

Detailed information on rationale for proposals contained in links within each proposal taken from my Irish Times columns. The reason for reform.

  1. Publish full political financial accounts online, greater powers for Standards Commission and ratify GRECO recommendations.
  2. Reform committee system, repeal Abbeylara decision and give committees renewed investigative powers.
  3. Rebalance relationship between executive and legislature as was intended in Article 28 of Constitution
  4. Meaningful open government with stronger FOI legislation, new whistleblower and lobbying legislation and public appointments board.
  5. Reform local government with revenue raising powers and reform planning powers
  6. Diverse representation in public life through a reformed Senand which would encompass island of Ireland and diaspora in public life
  7. Introduce gender quotas, lower voting age to 16, reform decision making process
  8. Change the electoral system
  9. Definition of Republic in constitution and statement of values
  10. Citizens assembly to be implemented
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83 thoughts on “MY TEN PROPOSALS FOR POLITICAL REFORM

  1. Hi,
    Do you think that a new constitution would be a good measure too ? It seems as if there’s a lot of ‘cute hoor’ get out of jail clauses in it. I don’t think we can move away from current political ethos & practice without it. Tighter regulation of Elected officical, ministerial appointments based on meritocracy & competance and background, working for a national good rather than for ones constituency only. No more cars and benifits and smaller salary. Politics should be more a vocation than a way to line ones own pocket as it is now.

    I wonder if someone could answer a silly question for me- why doesn’t somebody form a new party, to campaign for wholesale reform of the state? Is is possible to do, because I for one would run for office in such a party. If this is feasable, how come none of the very bright people I come across all over the interned and various media sources step up and get the ball rolling? It could end up left to people like me !!

    • @David
      “…why doesn’t somebody form a new party, to campaign for wholesale reform of the state?”

      Question is not silly. Setting up a new political party is entrepreneurial – total commitment 24/7/365 with lots of resources ie. driven, imaginative people with managerial imagination and know-how.

      I am convinced that this crisis will give rise to new parties, just as the 1980s crisis gave rise to the PDs. Similar developments happened within N.Ireland during the last 50 years, with new parties emerging and others losing their traction on the electorate.

      But note that Machiavelli’s comment has some relevance for this kind of effort “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand or more uncertain of success than to take a lead in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovation has for its enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders those who may do well under the new.”

      As we, citizens of a republic, develop and consider new options on our way of governing ourselves, we should also note Bacon’s observation that ” There is no comparison between that which is lost by not succeeding and that which is lost by not trying”.

      • @Donal Thanks for all your comments to date Donal, always food for thought. On your point about the difficulties of establishing a new political party- it’s not just about commitment BUT money!

        It’s worth re-reading Des O’Malley’s views on setting up a new political party in contemporary Ireland compared to his experience in the 1980s. The headline of the piece kinda sums it all up: “It is easier to set up a new party in Iraq than it is in Ireland” See his piece from the Renewing the Republic series in the Irish Times from earlier this year: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2010/0402/1224267548266.html

    • @ David The Labour party have proposed a constitutional convention to report by 2016 with the purpose of re-writting the constitution. But much of this work has already been done in the many reports conducted within the Constitution Review Group on the 1990s. http://www.constitution.ie/constitutional-reviews/crg.asp

      The challenge now is to stop writing reports and to start implementing them.

      But the premise of the Labour party — that of a citizens’ assembly type forum — is a positive one. It is a recognition by a party about to get into power that in order for change to occur it is not just about institutions and legislation but culture. Irish citizens have to take ownership of the process of reform.

      On establishing new parties to campaign for wholesale reform, in fairness to Labour and Fine Gael, they have produced documents on reform:

      Fine Gael: https://politicalreform.ie/2010/11/08/fine-gael-dusts-off-some-old-policy-documents-to-propose-a-reinvention-of-government/

      Labour: https://politicalreform.ie/2010/11/11/labour-partys-political-reform-proposals/

  2. @Elaine,
    Good ideas.
    Is this your take on what Fintan O’Toole said he was going to do during the Frontline TV a little while ago?

    Two of your proposals -6 and 8- mean constitutional change. So Point 10 falls, as a citizens’s assembly cannot DECIDE these matters for us.
    My understanding of a citizens’s assembly is that it can explore and develop options for change.
    All I have ever heard of these being used for is to engage in process of deliberation on changing the electoral systems.
    This suggests that to succeed, a citizens’ assembly works best if it is given a specific focus, on a single issue. If so, each of these issues could have a citizens’ assembly for each of your ten proposals.

    I put it very differently in a response to Jane Suiter’s thread
    “The key issue is that we need a way of governing ourselves with checks and balances which limit the scope for excess by the powerful (public and private, elected and appointed) so that we have competent and moderate government focused on the common good, instead of being focused on grand gestures. ”

    For detail see
    https://politicalreform.ie/2010/11/21/radical-poltical-reform-needed/

  3. Reforming quangoland would involve the removal of expenses/political patronage, as well as including some form of ‘service’ bonus, where, say, a professional takes over a quango and has his/her tax credits adjusted for the period of their secondment, as well as a default to ‘yes’ for FOI requests.

    • Great stuff Stephen. Also a public appointments bill which would introduce transparency into the system of appointments. I’ve noted before that one of the board members of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority was a fiction writer, for example.

  4. It is time to stop talking we must now act. A new national reform movement must be formed. It would implement the reform of Government, state services and business regulation, which would be complete in three years. The movement would then call an election.
    It is time those who have been speaking on this issue recently to now act. Time is short.

  5. so much of this could be done online, to claim expenses it should be procedure that you publish them for all and sundry to see, spend your own money as you see fit, but public money should be accountable 100% of the time. great ideas.

  6. I want these political reforms to happen. The funeral attending, nod ‘n a wink, cute hoorism has to stop. Anyone who offers to halve the number of TD’s and move to a list system has my vote. But I don’t trust any of the current political parties to deliver it.

    • @Killian – Yeah but it’s as much as people wanting their politicians to attend funerals as it is politicians wanting to attend funerals (As the daughter of an undertaker I can testify!)

      See points above about the need to changing the expectations/culture of the electorate as much as changing electoral systems, constitutions and what have you.

  7. Here is some “reforms” of my own!

    Reduce all salaried of public servants to 100k until the economy recovers
    Reduce all salaries of semi state executives to correspond to those in NI
    Introduce car pooling for ministers
    Get rid of state cars for former heads of state
    Get rid of all junior ministers
    Go back to 13 ministers
    Get rid of the seanad
    100 TD Dail
    Refuse to pay pensions to those who caused this economic melt down
    Have a new 21st century Constitution
    Make every party state their 20 objectives they are allocated 1 point for each one they achieve at the end of their terms in office.
    Reduce the number of quango’s to less than a 100 in one year
    Assimilate quango’s back into government departments
    End the ludicrous retirement on 80% of salary of current encumbent
    End early retirement for garda, prison officers and soilders, judges etc
    End the monopoly of the medical profession especially consultants
    End the monopoly of the legal profession
    End all state monopolies
    Introduce lay judges
    Make it compulsory to use generic drugs where possible
    Eliminate the use of school prefabs within 3 years
    Introduce a standard design for primary schools and secondary schools with facades to match existing buildings where possible
    Restore all funding for schools
    Restore all funding to carers
    Re-open most of the hospitals that were closed down
    Stop building industrial Hospitals immediately
    Open a centre of genomic research and development
    Expand our wind energy and other renewables to 40% of all electricity within 10 years
    Start campaign to end obesity
    Start massive campaign to end alcohol addiction
    Start a massive campaign to end drug use
    Scrap the Croke Park agreement
    Put the DoF under strict supervision and make them all have proper qualifications
    End the sham of grades, grade inflation and automatic salary increases
    End begging on all Irish streets, their Nat ID card gives them access to dole and that’s it
    End all tax breaks for pensions to wealthy
    End tax breaks on Union subscriptions
    Make it illegal to strike in essential services
    End the revolving door prison system immediately
    End automatic bail
    People who commit serious crimes wait in jail for their cases to be heard same as Spain
    End automatic remission of sentences
    Judges sentencing to be peer reviewed once a year
    Mechanism to fire judges if required
    End jobs for life in Public Service
    Public servants to be flexible and required to perform similarly useful work within reason
    Criminal behaviour 3 Strikes and you are staying in for a long time
    Bring in the army to fight drug lords and drug dealers
    Bring in internment without trial for drug lords and gangsters
    No automatic right to Passports for certain types of criminals
    Build a small 300 cell prison for WCC white collar criminals
    Hit ESB with big fines for failure to connect wind farms to grids within 2 years
    Insist on energy bills being reduced by 30%
    Introduce a national identity card to know who exactly is in the state
    Use the card which has biometric data to issue all state benefits
    Payment of childrens allowances to children outside ireland same home state
    End RTE monopoly and make them share license fee
    End contracting method of inflating TV presenters salaries
    Get rid of upwards only rent reviews
    Freeze all planning permissions within the state save for farmers sons and daughters
    Tax development land at 50%
    Politicians found guilty of corruption cannot run for election to public office again
    End NAMA immediately
    End all tribunals within 3 months findings on 3 X A4 pages no more
    Introduce a fully functioning web based government database showing all aspects of government work
    Close the DDDA
    No planning permission granted unless there is a proven economic demand
    Rents of commercial premises to be examined with a view to maximising employment
    Commercial rates to be halved
    Parking in cities to be no more than 2 Euro and hour
    Ditto for private car parks
    Private car parks to be allowed to be built to alleviate parking but must have retail at street level
    A web site showing the value and duration of all state contracts
    All government information available free of charge available on internet
    Forestry to be expanded by 5% a year for the next 10 years (native species)
    Fishing and fish farming aquaculture to be expanded
    Fresh water farming of fish to be expanded
    Pollution of water to be regarded as a serious social crime punishable with forfiture of land or huge fines
    No more removal of Irish ditches which leads to loss of habitat and species and causes serious flooding problems

      • It is always a little bit more complex but it was not too complex.

        The government got into bed with the unions and they want to stay there even though the brothel is about to be shut down. I have hundreds of ideas that I am sure you would find even more offensive. I have not addressed the issue of jobs only in a small way and I would like to address that.

    • “Start a massive campaign to end drug use”. ? There has been a massive campaign for over forty years and it is immoral and a waste of resources. Legalise, (to a greater or lesser degree) regulate and tax all drugs now.

      • The garda play games with these people to earn hundreds of thousands in overtime there has been no serious attempt to deal with the problem. I am not talking about Fachtna Murphy and the law courts. Complete waste of time that.

        Any way the problem is much more serious than meets the eye. Though Moyross and Southill are pretty eye catching. Tax is only one issue. Who picks up the tab for 40 years of psychiatric care? @ 90,000 grand a year it comes in at 3.6 million. Same cost as a prisoner in Mountjoy.

        Those costs are a little expensive for a tax not much more than the government gets on a packet of cigarettes. I have seen such patients. Holland’s drug experiments have been a disaster for society they thought they could confine it to cannabis then came the H, the C, the E and the chemicals.

        Just go in around Grafton any day of the week, have a look, half the people begging are junkies a lot of them have serious and probably permanent brain damage or are well on the way to it! As for the middle class kids who take the chemicals who is going to look after them when their heads have been permanently short circuited by drugs? Their parents? Don’t think so. And once is enough to do permanent irreversible damage.

        It is still cheaper to jail the lot and btw the state should outsource, send them somewhere abroad where prisons don’t cost as much to run as they do in Ireland. Bang them up abroad! After all they wanted to go on a trip!

    • My favourite is: “People who commit serious crimes wait in jail for their cases to be heard same as Spain” …(1) how do we know those people have indeed committed those crimes UNTIL we try them? (2) Notwithstanding, we DO that already; it’s called “remanding in custody”.
      But seriously, I DO like most of your proposals. Now how are we going to achieve them do you think?

  8. Elaine, what benefit would a statement of principles in the Constitution bring? It would likely just result in many lenghty and expensive court cases to try to figure out just what it means and whether it’s justiciable. This, of course, is the problem with proposing that things are put into a constitution: it has supremacy within the Irish legal system therefore messing around with it must be done only on a very limited basis. We’d be better off trying to fix the bits of it that are problematic than adding more, potentiall problematic, parts (I’ve given my view on this before here: http://www.humanrights.ie/index.php/2010/05/13/constitutional-renewal/ )

    As for your no 3 proposal: I think this is key. DO you see the removal of the whipping system as central to this? As long as everything is whipped I find it difficult to think of ways that there can be real parliamentary accountability. The committee reform is also vital; in particular there needs to be a rights-audit committee asap if you ask me.

    • But you can’t just ban the party whip – it’s a voluntary arrangement.

      In any case there are many reasons why it might be regarded as a good thing. How would you get a budget through w/out the whip? Imagine the horse trading that would go on!

      There’s a good chapter on the whip system by Michael Gallagher in a book published today – The Houses of the Oireachtas – Parliament in Ireland edited by Muiris MacCartaigh and Maurice Manning.

    • @Fiona Well done on your excellent contributions on http://www.humanrights.ie

      A flowery statement in the preamble of the constitution will not make anyone’s mortgage repayments any easier or stop the rise in unemployment or emigration.

      But words DO matter. It is a statement of intent. An audit of values, a demonstration of aspiration and the belief in possibility. Words instill pride and positive sentiment in the belief in something external to us. That is why the principles of the proclamation are still rehearsed every Easter and why Henry Grattan’s last speech still excites. http://elaine.ie/?p=242

      For me, the preamble is contradictory to the whole notion of a Republic. A coherent vision of what a reformed Ireland wishes to be should be reflected in our Constitution. Our constitution does not contain the word republic and although we talk a lot about a republic we have never formally defined it. The preamble of the Constitution of Ireland, Bunreacht na hÉireann, is contrary to the notion of republican ideals with its emphasis on “the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be refer.” In a republic, power is derived from its people, not from religious doctrine. Neither does a republic distinguish between the genders of its citizens. Symbolism matters.

      • I agree re the preamble and the fact that it does not encapsulate a modern underpinning for our Constitution. I wouldn’t like to see too much playing around with the actual operative parts of the Constitution though to include flowery but ultimately legally difficult statements (the ‘cherish all the children equally’ proposal within the current wording of the children’s rights amendments, for example, is a potential minefield from a legal perspective)

  9. An excellent start. Can I suggest that consideration be given to amalgamating the concepts contained in nos 6 and 10, in others words that the reformed Seanad would genuinely represent civic society and citizen discourse. I have recently completed an MA thesis on this area.

    • @Vincent I’m curious about your suggestions (and happy that some else has confidence in the potential of a reformed Senate!!!). Any chance you would do a guest post of 1000 or so words, using these themes from your MA thesis? You can contact me on the contact page of http://www.elaine.ie

  10. How can you just repeal the Abbeylara decision? You’d have to introduce a constitutional amendment that ended the separation of powers. The Abbeylara decision was in part quite sensible, the Oireachtas has no place deciding if a killing was lawful or not. I agree the majority went too far in stating that the Oireachtas’ limited power to inquire did not extend to making ‘findings of fact’, but you need to be much more nuanced in stating ‘reforms’. How would you achieve these, and would they really do any good, or could they as Fiona above suggests, create more problems.

    You want to change the electoral system – to anything other than we have now, or did you have something particular in mind? It would be more useful to state what you want and what you think it would achieve and why.

    • @Eoin What are your ten, twelve, sixteen points for reform?

      Your colleague in DCU, Shane Martin, has an interesting paper published on the committee system today where he touches upon the Abbeylara decision http://webpages.dcu.ie/~martins/IrelandCommittee.pdf

      FG and Lab have both called for Abbeylara to be re-examined. Pat Rabbitte published the Committees of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Powers of Inquiry) Bill, 2010 on February 16th last in order to restore the power of inquiry by parliamentary committee and to bring the law into compliance with the Supreme Court Judgement.

      He cited Dr Gerard Hogan SC told “The Irish Times” that “Abbeylara, while causing difficulties did not slam the door shut as many believe”. He highlighted the distinction where the Supreme Court held that “it was unconstitutional for the committee to make a finding that a named person committed an act of homicide” and an inquiry, for example, into the banking crisis.

      In that same contribution, Rabbitte also made the point that the electoral system will not solve all our ills- it has become the cause celebrate. http://www.fairsociety.ie/press/listing/127971256016206268.html

      On electoral reform, what is your opinion on the conclusions presented in Matt and Séin’s report for the Joint Committee on the Oireachtas- http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?fn=/documents/Committees30thDail/J-Constitution/Report_2008/document1.htm

  11. I have more of a question than a comment. I do not see the current establishment (including all opposition parties) implementing any of the changes you listed in particular to local government with additional powers. I have numerous examples of how good ideas and projects were scuppered by national bodies with no explanation, resulting in massive losses to the affected regions. Is there a way to initiate a referendum without going through the current political process?

    • @Brian There are no more scared cows. Everything is on the table. There is an appetite for fundamental change that we have not experienced since that transformative 1918 election. Never waste a good crisis…

      • I love “scared cows” …sorry, I know it’s just a typo ( I make lots of them), but it is kind of funny!

    • Yes, there is. We (though not me, I’m hopeless at IT) need to set up a national register of electors with everyone’s email address (instead of their snailmail address). Then, any question can be put to the entire electorate via email. Simple.. but not easy of course – we’d need to set up the register first and then advertise like crazy to give everyone the opportunity at least, of registering. I’ll help but I don’t know how to set up the required website etc.
      This would also allow for partial referenda to be carried out, e.g. confining specific questions to limited electorates such as limiting questions to electors of a specific age-range / gender / income level / location etc etc., i.e. if we gathered such additional data. The possibilities are quite exciting I think. Any takers?

  12. Power corrupts, the current incumbents illustrate that. There should a limit on how long a politician serves, two in govt and three in total would be more than enough.
    We don’t need career politicians, we need representatives of the people.
    Nor do we need political dynasties.

    A list system with 60 TD’s max.
    Beef up local govt for those who need their pump primed and their potholes filled.

    Complete transparency by publishing everything govt does online, with perhaps the exception of security matters.

    All budget holders to in the civil/public bodies to take a solemn oath in a court to be fully accountable and responsible to the Irish citizens.
    There should be serious penalties for failing to get the best and most open deal for the people.

    Any lobbying of govt parties to be utterly transparent.
    Donations only allowed to a democratic fund to be split between parties.

    We must not allow a brain drain to occur.
    Abolish employers PRSI for all new hires.
    Tax credits for hiring graduates.

    Rip up the current learning by rote nonsense that much of the leaving cert has become. Skills to be taught instead. Analysis, critical thinking and creation should be the guiding principles.

    €100,000 seed capital for the top 50 final year projects.

    • Let’s put this 60 TDs or 90 TDs argument to bed. The economic crisis would not have been prevented if we had more or less TDs in parliament. It is not about the number of TDs, it is about the power of TDs. The relationship between the executive and the legislature, the power of the committees, the process of decision making and so forth. Those things have nothing to do with how many or how little TDs we have.

      Totally agree with you on the leaving cert and critical thinking. There are some great initiatives underway at Junior Cert level — the challenge is extending that to senior cycle. I gave a speech earlier this year to the ASTI annual teachers conference on this and on how education has the potential to revolutionise Ireland – http://elaine.ie/?p=641

  13. I think the introduction of a list system would be a good first step in reducing clientelism. the D’Hondt system operates extremely well abroad and should be considered as a replacement for PRSTV which has just lead to lowest common denominator politics.

    Local government is something that *absolutely* needs reform. They are glorified residents associations at present. if the proposed property tax goes ahead and is in fact given to to LA budgets that would be a massive step forward for removing them from under the thumb of central command. Ireland is one of the most centralised countries in Europe and the lack of coherent regional planning and accountability has lead to the Jackie Healy Rae gombeenism that has typified Irish politics.

    I agree that a shake up of legislature is necessary. The lack of committee power, the inability of members to add amendments and the fact that Cabinet make legislation, introduce it to the house and then those same people vote on that bill makes no sense at all. Seperation of powers is more than just stopping judges making law, in the absence of a president that has any real power, we should have a strong and independent executive branch, seperate from the legislature.

    All in all, i agree mostly with the 10 proposals above, they’re common sense changes that should have been made years ago.

    • @David On local government, Dr Aodh Quinlivan in UCC is working on proposals for fundamental reform of local government, an internal working group within the political studies association of Ireland has been established and work is underway.

      The McCarty report (remember that) pointed to inequalities in central gov funding in its block grants between different county councils, with rural councils getting a disportionate amount of funding. I sit on the Dublin City Council Strategic Finance Committee and our job is to scruntinise the finances of the city and sitting on that body for the last year has really opened up my eyes to how outdated our local gov system is. Dublin City council for example self-raise most of their finances but many of their decisions remain at the mercy of central gov- which makes no sense at all.

  14. Wow. What a flurry of good ideas. But seriously though, when we see, on the day after the Government finally responded to the long-required (but insufficient) package of support being offered by the EU and the IMF, Irish politicians deciding to display, in the full glare of the international media, the anachronistic and gloriously dysfunctional factionalism of the Irish political system, does anyone really believe that these politicians, even with considerable replacement of personnel, understand the requirement for reform – not to mind taking steps to devise and implement reform?

    • @Paul Right now, all anybody can see is in front of their nose. Reform will not happen over night. It will take time to implement and bed down. That is why the long-term (realistic) goal of reform should be 2016- the opportunity to celebrate a reformed republic (second republic?)

  15. Our greatest difficulty (and this has been the case for decades) is a fundamental lack of honesty.
    This dishonesty extends across every sector of Irish society to some extent.
    Examples;
    Working & collecting dole at the same time,

    Well known dishonesty in some professions, Auctioneering for example, Banking etc

    Local Councillor’s getting votes on the strength of being a good man to ‘fix up’ a planning application,

    A lack of willingness to point out & openly discuss the various ‘elephants’ in the room such as the true value of the Irish language to modern Ireland etc.

    I could fill several pages with examples of Irish dishonesty and not come to the end of it. How can it be addressed? I dont have all the answers. However, I firmly believe that certain aspects of the Irish psyche need to be exposed and subjected to rigorous debate, perhaps honest debate might show us the way.

  16. The State Bureaucracy should not be neglected in these reforms. It would be useful to attract and appoint specialists and higher level officials from outside. The present system encourages a group think in the various departments.

  17. @Elaine Byrne,

    In response to your invitation in the thread on Matthew Wall’s subsequent post, I am happy to throw in my tuppence worth.

    I would group your items 1 to 5 + 10 under the general heading of “Separation of Powers, Resourcing of these powers (in the appropriate areas of policy formulation, investigation, scrutiny, execution, administration and review – hat tip to Maria Walsh) and Provision of necessary information to exercise these powers”. While leaving the existing separation of the powers of the judiciary untouched, this would enforce a separation and definition of the powers of the executive, the national legislature, local authorities and citizen assemblies (as required to consider constitutional and institutional issues). I would place consideration of your items 6 to 9 in the remit of a citizens’ assembly.

    • Thanks Paul. It is a work in progress and some of the excellent comments on this page have already highlighted some reforms that should be given more priority. I like the way you grouped them and the language that you defined them under.

  18. A response to your invitation on my post:

    In my opinion, political scientists are never going to totally agree on an integrated reform agenda.

    Taking your option 8, for instance: ‘Change the electoral system’, I spent a lot of time working on this issue, a personally vacillated on it throughout. We had submissions from academics and politicians who admired PR-STV and wanted to keep it, and from (admittedly, fewer) academics and politicians who felt that a mixed, German-style system would offer a lot of improvements. I saw merit in the arguments of both sides, and feel that the interaction between electoral rules and political culture/behaviour make the effects of electoral system reform (in the ‘big’ sense of totally overhauling the system) extremely difficult to predict.

    In my opinion, ultimately, it is not the role of the academic community to make the decisions, nor to reach a consensus on the exact package of reforms to be enacted. Rather we can: 1) identify areas where improvements could be made, laying out potential alternative systems used elsewhere in an honest and balanced way and 2) point to a democratic mechanism for agreeing on what reforms to implement.

    So, for me, your item 10, ‘Citizen’s Assembly to be implmented’, would be the mechanism, while the other 9 would represent areas to be studied and options to be considered by a CA.

    Items 1 and 4 are to do with improving transparency of politics and government. This is an area where I defer to your expertise, and the proposed reforms seem eminently sensible to me.

    Items 2, 3, and 5 are to do with the appropriate resources and authority for local, legislative, and executive branches of government.

    Beefing up the legislature in terms of authority, and making it more modern and efficient day-to-day are an absolute must – many of its day-to-day operations at the moment are somewhere between redundant and farcical. Scripted speeches that don’t answer questions in a near-deserted chamber? We have to be able to do better than that.

    I would also include a re-examination of the appointment and accountability of the judicial branch here.

    Also, the ‘executive’ branch should probably be writ large, to include quangos, and Departments of the Civil Service.

    Your point about public appointments is particularly important IMO. The best person to apply for the job should be the one to get it, this probably goes for many civil service appointments too, where internal hires seem to be the overwhelming norm.

    Items 6, 7, and 8 capture elements of how the public is to be engaged in politics – through electing representatives to the upper and lower houses, and in the creation of political regulation.

    With regard to the upper house, is random slection completely out of the question? Probably it’s a little radical, but I would see strong arguments for it – especially in ensuring that legislation receives depoliticised scrutiny.

    The way in which we generate regulation definitely deserves close scrutiny.

    On changing the electoral system, see above for my non-commital stance on the ‘big’question of whether we should have a new system altogether – follow this link for the Committee’s recomnedations on how to improve the exisitng system, which i broadly endorse (though I’d have votes @16 myself, rather than 17 as the report advocates, and feel that Prof. Coakley’s proposal on boundary delineation would represent a massive improvement on the exisiting approach): http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=15787&CatID=78

    On the definition of the republic/statement of values – I don’t feel too strongly either way about this, but it would be nice to have some grounding values in there, I suppose.

    Other areas that I would put forward are:

    Ministerial nominations, do they really all have to be TDs??

    Ministerial authority, and accountability with regard to their departments should be looked at.

    Politician’s pay and expenses – I know that everybody freaks out when this topic comes up, i really don’t mean to be populist – but this issue continuously massively undermines all politics and politicians. We need to have complete transparency on expenses and some kind of external system for evaluating the legitimacy of expense claims and determining pay rates.

    Provision for

  19. My response is…….I agree with all of them (except one), but…

    5. Reform local government with revenue raising powers and reform planning powers – agreed; I also feel that local representation at town etc. level (unpaid) is also needed. Maybe Regional as well. Each having very specific duties with no overlap! That way parish pumps can be dealt with by the parish so to speak and so on as per the principle of subsidiarity.
    6. Diverse representation in public life through a reformed Senand which would encompass island of Ireland and diaspora in public life – agreed, but should be unpaid (by state). Interest groups can pay for their own nominee/s; the state can pay modest expenses.
    7. Introduce gender quotas, lower voting age to 16, reform decision making process – disagree – gender quotas should be required at party level for nominees. Most 18 year olds don’t vote let alone 16!
    8. Change the electoral system – agreed, a list system is essential for national representatives to get away from clientelism. The Dail to meet 5 days a week and all TDs to be in the house or on committee work (or other useful, national work); I have mixed feelings about whether TDs should have any ministerial role. Taoiseach should probably nominate 10 or so real experts.

    10. Citizens assembly to be implemented – agreed, but unlike FG proposal, it should have teeth, eg 100,000 signatories to constitute a vote / require Dail decision review and 51% of electorate enough to ‘recall‘ any public representative from local, county or regional assembly; or something broadly similar. FG would have such assemblies operating as talk shops / paper tigers.

  20. An add on to Elaine point-Change the opening lyrics to Amhrán na bhFiann. On a corridor yesterday i found out that Ireland’s National Anthem Amhrán na bhFiann musical score was composed in 1907 with the lyrics added to it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amhr%C3%A1n_na_bhFiann)
    No agreement was made on the Irish translation and if you read the wiki entry you will see that the Irish version is a ‘open’ translation of the English. In particular, “Sinne Fianna Fáil” is not a literal translation of “Soldiers are we”
    So lets go with the correct translation remove the reference to Fianna Fail and revert to Sinne Óglaigh na hÉireann (soldiers of Ireland)-The change does not require a referendum but would have a significant psychological impact.

  21. Personally, triumphalist, bellicose lyrics leave me (a pacifist) cold. I’d prefer Danny Boy as it refers to family, love, emigration, remembrance, prayer etc. It also offers a good NI-ROI “compromise”.
    I wouldn’t give tuppence for Amhran Na bFhiann …apart from anything else it sounds too much like Fianna Fail! (…which I understand is to be renamed Financial Fail)

    • The line “the pipes the pipes are calling” refers to a call to arms. The pipes were, like certain drums, a martial instrument primarily – first recorded use at the Battle of the Yellow Ford (1596 I think). Danny is being called to war. tis he MUST go and his lover must wait it out. Twould mark a serious end to civil war politics if we could have as a nation a vote on a new anthem. good luck and don’t hold your breath ;)In shaping a new Ireland it is a question to ask though for any people serious about taking responsibilty for their country and culture.

      • I was aware of that Tracey but the point is he ‘must go’ (he doesn’t want to, hopefully). I thought it was his father that was singing to his son… No matter. The point is war brings separation, sadness and sorrow, something that is surely reminiscent of Ireland’s history.

  22. It is somewhat amusing to read these, let’s face it, academic solutions to the great constitutional issues of the day, on a day when we are being told we, as a people, may be saddled with an interest rate on the bailout of 6.7%.
    These discussions are interesting, perhaps intellectually satisfying, coming up with the perfect republic some would like, but to what end? What is the final point of these discussions? Are they an end in themselves or will some of these ideas ever be put to the people? I note there is some mention of a citizen’s assembly, but are real events (bailouts, repossessions, etc) not moving more quickly than the glacial movement to such a civilised solution implied on these pages? An election is due within 4 months and it is clear that no alternative, no political reform options, will be presented to the people in such an election. That is, for the next 5 years+ the present inequitable system will be locked in. So, in short, ‘where is the beef’? What is the plan for these ideas and do the authors of this webpage envisage any opposition from the status quo as they argue the reform of ‘the electoral system’, etc? Where is the lead to come from? Do the authors intend to put these points to the people at the coming election or is all of this mere waffle? (On a separate matter, is the picture at the top of the page a picture of the 1st Dail in 1919 or a picture of the first Dail assembly in Leinster House in 1922? The answer to that question could give some further idea of where you are collectively coming from.)

    • Of course you are 100% right this is a discussion taking place way out on the margins by the academically minded any intrusion like the one you have just made is deeply unwelcome. Well that is my guess.

      Meanwhile, the game has moved on and the luxury of the grand gestures from the academics are no longer meaningful. All that matters now is whether the country is able to carry the burden of a 200bn national debt which has been brought on the country by very erudite, educated people.

      I am sure they are all very fine people in their own right but I doubt very much if any of them ever employed anyone in this country other than themselves and that is what we need more than ever.

  23. Most of our politicians are corrupt so do we try to enter as fifth columnists and take over from the inside? seriously how do we who are appalled by the corruption and ineptitude and sheer stupidity of our public sector change it? I just spent 5 min trying to Google how to become a t.d. , what is necessary to be elected to Dail (sorry haven’t taken time to set up fadas)and I got asked if I meant s.t.d.s? The level of ignorance about our policial/public system is staggering. all answers were smart alecky comment about how to be corrupt with not one single factual answer. how do we educate one another in a hostile enviroment because believe me do not understimate the sheer numbers hired and pampered by the governments of the last 30 years. 800 quangos amounts to alot of people actual people not a demographic. unfortunately they too have votes. they are married and many have adult children. like the Mafia wives and offspring these people choose to look the other way.remember the opposition parties voted these crazy budgets through and took their pay rises and pensions and expense accounts. Was nobody outside of exchequer aware of extraordinary salaries to semi state officials? why was it a journalist and not an oppostion member who asked key questions about why FAS got a 1 billion euro at a time of full employment? or didn’t ask how it was spent? The sheer numbers of people who benefit from the status quo is enormous in a country of our size. Almost all migrants here have no political voice or will to engage with the system. Massive numbers of decent people disgusted with our corrupt society emigrate and that is huge issue – our lack of faith and will to engage – because some lackey will block your planning permission or make sure the Gardai get you if you have any energy left at end of day to put into effecting change in how this country operates. Alot of good suggestions Elaine but they demand a system willing to reform itself.. do you yourself know the practical question of how to be elected? who do you register the intention to stand with? how many signatures required? Do you need elected officals to nominate you? How soon before an election can you present yourself as a candidate? Armchair politics is a waste of energy. lets get down to nitty gritty. I suggest that every citizen has a duty to inform themselves and their children how their country works because the education system which produced so many of our t.d.s does not. one service our journalists might provide is to highlight photos with names and addresses of those in the public sector on exorbitant salaries particularly those who were criminally negligent in their post and yet got golden handshakes and let people ostracise them. refuse to serve them in shops pubs restaurants. refuse to service their cars wash their windows cut their hair until they hand the money back. let local newspapers run ads highlighting facts.not name calling or slandering just the known facts. and let people in their community know that this person is part of why they can’t afford heat or petrol or healthcare or to stay in business or live where they want. It is personal so make it personal.

  24. There is very little merit in a wish list like this apart from prompting debate. Some things would be nice, but so is chocolate, it doesn’t mean its good for you. As one post mentions the fundamental issue in human history is that power corrupts and destroys social contracts. And we have not been an exception here.

    The real issue at hand in Irish society is not the need for a wish list but the need for a structured social contract that builds a willing culture of rights and obligations, of checks and balances, of responsibility and accountability. This is what is lacking.

    The bureaucracy attached to the current system is not a matter for constitutional concern. Any new contract will have to drag it kicking and screaming to meet the needs of the new society we develop.

    Whether change means an entirely new constitution or amendments to the current one is also moot. We need to do what is best for the country, whichever option is most practicable.

    The rotten core of Irish political life has seen tribunals unable to prosecute the law breakers, planning corruption that is local and national and has destroyed the economy of the state, unaccountable and unsupported policing and, fundamentally, a failure to protect children, a failure to have the contributions of great minds to political discourse, the corruption of patriotism, virtue and all the positive aspect of human nature that are needed to out weight the corruption and outlaw spirit that currently prevails in this country.

    John Adams preamble to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is for me still relevant to us now.
    “The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body politic, to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it with the power of enjoying in safety and tranquility their natural rights, and the blessings of life: and whenever these great objects are not obtained, the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity and happiness.”

    Cutting to the chase, we need to learn from the models of Politic that work and have been proven to work. Where Accountability is real, where we are not concerned with an act of “FOI” but a real act of faith that gives the Legislature and Judiciary real power and oversight in holding an executive and its functions to account, where the Legislature cannot run riot as they will be restrained by the judiciary and the executive and where the judiciary are constrained by a constitution that represents the real social contract and the will of the people.

    This country has been corrupted by greed, not driven by ambition.
    Let us be ambitious now when it is most needed and determine our own future.

    This country has been corrupter by parochial localism.
    Let us act as Patriots and determine our future based on conscience and principle.

    This country has been corrupted by vested interests restricting the economy and keeping the citizen beholden and at bay.
    Let us open up these closed shops and bureaucracies, let us blast them apart at the seams and replace them with a system that works for the Citizens of this county.

    Ireland needs a truly Republican government where separation of powers will restrain the worst in us and bring out best.

    The people of Ireland must take up their own cause or else be damned and damn their children to another famine, this time of Freedom.

  25. Has the time come yet for us to propose how to go about actually achieving this? Bloody revolution? I hope not! (1) Personally, I believe in the power of “Name & Shame” to rid our country of those who helped to ruin it and are continuing to do so. While an able-bodied person refusing to work is a leech of society that person pales into insignificance next to the gargantuan leeches that bleed this beautiful country dry. They should be asked to leave the country or mend their ways and make reparation. Naturally, all such persons should have the right to defend their position and be shown in advance the moral charges against them. Maybe a truth+reconciliation court is needed?
    (2) I also feel that a bottom up approach is going to be necessary to bring in such changes, street-by-street, residents’ association by residents’ association, nominating delegates to sit on area / district assemblies (all unpaid) and so on up to county, regional and even national level (candidates for the Oireachtas to be nominated in this fashion). This could be done alongside the existing sham that passes for democracy in this country, gradually replacing it over time.
    (3) Elaine, will you set up these virtual assemblies and we’ll all join up? Or build something similar that we can espouse?

  26. I’d like to see Dail terms limited to 4 years.

    5 years is too long. It’s great if you have a competent political party in office. But what if you have an incompetent party in office or a corrupt party in office? It’s virtually impossible to get them out as the last few years has shown.

    Secondly I’d like to see some form of mid term elections. Maybe not 50% of seats up for grabs, maybe just 20% of seats up for grabs.

    We need our national leaders to be more accountable, more often. If things go bad, the people should have a say.

    Thirdly, I’d like to see budgets taken out of the hands of politicians. The temptation is too much to cater to vested interests when the politicians are involved. Let someone independent draw up the budget, such as economists. Let the Dail pass or reject the budget, but don’t let the politicians decide what goes in it. This would reduce parish pomp politics a little bit.

  27. Can I suggest someone (I’d do it myself if I could) set up a website based on the electoral register whereby every street / estate in every town / village is listed and where these are grouped to form districts / small towns / villages, in turn grouped to form towns / areas, and up to County level and up to Regional level and even to national level;

    …the idea being we can run a virtual election of representatives at all these levels, lowest level first. That will then give us elected representatives at every level and can begin to run the country in a virtual way. We can convert this into real nomination and hopefully election of the people’s choice of representatives in rela elections, to replace the eejits / crooks we have at present.

    If the site is set up we can all canvass our neighbours to join in, i.e. add their email address as required so that they can nominate, promote, second, vote for candidates of their choice. Anyone interested?

    • yup, count me in. Unfortunately I’m not the I.T. genius you require.
      84 seats from 43 constituencies is needed for an over all majority. Look at the P.D.s and the Greens if you think we need even those big numbers to be effective. Setting sights on someone else stepping up for us for 2016 election could be detrimental. We have 4 months at most so think about it. Not just what we want for our country but who will help us to achieve it. Once President gives o.k. for election a person has 7 days to return nomination paper which is free to do and signatures of 30 registered voters to the Officer in constituency which you intend to run for.It doesn’t all have to be cash given to support election of candidates that are committed to change and integrity. Ask people to donate skills. I.T. and communication skills ,P.R., paper, transport, laptops, printers, train tickets,meeting room whatever. If elected let bulk of wage go to funding costs for a new political party. Current industrial wage plus mortgage repayments/rent to go to elected? One on one is best way to engage some people. Not of the Twitter/Facebook community myself but it truly is phenomenal in terms of mass communication to a hugely disenfranchised section of our country. Ask people you believe effective to run. If getting laughe at is the worst that happens to us in the coming years I’ll take it.

  28. 8 & 3 are the key ones

    -National list system to break the sectional dominance of political debate
    -Separate membership of the executive and the legislature (with right of return to the parliamentary seat if fired/resign)
    -implement the independent fiscal oversight proposals
    -satisfy localism through converting local authorities into a ‘commissioner’ style system (such as in many parts of the USA) with a small number of members and revenue raising.

  29. Thanks for pointer Robert.

    Have to say Elaine am utterly oppsed to gender or any other quota because invariably wrong person gets some important job and we all suffer doubly. Firstly because they do a poor job and secondly idiots can go -“and that’s why women/ one-eyed pygmies or whomever shouldn’t be in the job cos they can’t do it”-it re-enforces the negative bigotry and creats justified resentment in those who watched the better candidate passed over. Women got into modern politics because not only did they demand it but there were enough men who were willing to admit the shameful insanity had to end. So it will be for balanced representation. Greater numbers of women need to present themselves for election at all levels and also those who support gender balance need to demand it of the political parties. Start emailing, bring it up on the doorstep.

  30. 1.Yes to public accounts being published and increased FOI.
    2. Yes to public interviews for key offices in public sector.
    3. Yes to ministers coming from outside elected circles subject to public interview/scrutiny.
    4. Yes to reform of Seanad to have widespread representation instead of consolation prize appointments.
    5. Yes to re introducing right of people to call referendum.
    6. Introduce right of people to fire public officals. Quota of signatures required from those not political party members.
    7. Ban people from public office, judiciary who have been found guilty of corruption.
    8. Major reform required at local government level. Wouldn’t dream of giving them more revenue til they showed some competency in spending it.County engineers and planning officers have alot to answer for. Again lots of possible jobs in this sector because some are simply too big for one person to do efficiently at a desirable rate.
    9. Enforce the laws we have. Massive job creation opportunity there.
    10. yes to votes for Irish citizens abroad. Those would be ones most likely to vote for change.
    11. Any person resident in jurisdiction for 5 years eligible to vote in Dail elections.
    12. Cap on income for tribunal lawyers. Do the state a service why doncha?
    13. Compulsory Civics courses in schools. We supposedly had one but we only ever did our homework. Ye the informed offer classes in your local secondary schools til then.Encourage student councils at your child’s niece’s/nephew’s school. Engage them now.
    14. Yes to constitutional reform.Suggest every 15 years country has overall review and referendum on contents.
    15.Yes to judicial reform; not least re. appointments.
    16. Compulsory voting by eligible electorate with option on ballot paper to reject all candidates.
    17. Yes to mission statement for our nation.
    Great to hear calls for change to education curriculii from many quarters to involve relevant knowledge and skills. Empower them for life. If they have assertiveness classes they won’t stand for the crap we have. I would much rather my child knew how to negotiate or assert themselves in dealing with bullies than be able to name the rivers of France. And how in the name of all that’s good and holy can we talk about a smart economy and a well educated workforce when the most basic I.T skills aren’t taught compulsarily as part of curriculum? Two top class computer rooms in my daughter’s former secondary school and no computer class????? Again the incompetency and lack of accountablity boggles the mind.Kids need to be able to type at least by 6th class. Compare any 16 year old German/Dutch/Danish person’s level of English and an Irish one’s version of French or Spanish etc. Fundamental review needed there. Education will be key to political reform. Communities need to be able to fire bad teachers/principals. The current situation feeds the lack of faith in public function because too many grow up seeing ineptitude and bizarreness succeed and decency and commonsense give up.

    It seems to me the problem with privatising everything is that while possibly and probably more efficient it becomes about profit not a positive society and if we leave it in the hands of public officials/semi-states they are not only indifferent to greater society but corrupt/inept. I would rather give excess wage to the Society for the V de P and other charities or invest in promising ventures than trust the civil servants. I seek a Sister Stan/Michael O’Leary combination for Taoiseach.
    If you think it bizarre a fiction writer was a financial regulator I’m still trying to figure out how a lawyer without any economic qualification or experience became finance minister.

  31. And how can anybody claim entitlement to 100,000 euro plus pension for life for a job done for 2 years?
    Or take both a ministerial and T.D.s pension or a T.D.s pension, multiple ministerial pensions and a Taoiseach’s pension???? Ministerial cars a posturing nonsense.
    Some people have much stronger stomachs for sure.
    100,000 euro max for any public/semis state offical til profound turn around of society not economy.I want to live in a society again not an economy. 5,000 flat rate a year pension for 10 years to compensate for possible loss of earnings elsewhere. The old chestnut that you have to offer big money to get the caliber of official you wnat is rubbish cos it hasn’t worked for us so far. If you want someone who is caring and competent then that is what you ask for not someone who thinks having to get by on a 100,000 plus is a hardship.

    • Tracey, you are on the right track with your ideas. You should put your name down and run!

      “However gifted an individual is at the outset, if his or her talents cannot be developed because of his or her social condition, because of the surrounding circumstances, these talents will be still-born” Simone de Beauvoir Connexions in other words.

      In my gloomy opinion, we have left it too late, we are guilty of complacency. I see the road ahead as a series of “upheavals” against unions and politicians. The status quo will not be strong enough because money and crony capitalism was the glue used for social cohesion. Take away the money and the centre falls away.

      The IMF were always coming since Lenihans appointment and NAMA April 2008. The problem is, they have not disarmed or stood down the people who brought us here. After this election, we will have a changing of the old guard with the new old guard, but not a change of ideals, we never had the “goodness” in us as a society to actually deliver on our Proclamation. We just pretended that Irish people were equal, had freedom of opportunity, education and job prospects. It is how we deal with things, we just “pretend” everything is all right. Even when the IMF was here we continued with this approach.

      It is highly unlikely that what needs to happen, will happen peacefully. Especially, since the people organising marches against their friends in government are the very people who have brought us here. That’s why they organised these marches, they don’t want change they want to continue with the failed blueprint.

    • check out DirectDemocracy Ireland in particular and New Republic. Dno’t know all ins and outs but both have public meetings coming up in Dublin in next week. I sent text around to encourage people to check those and this site and to ask candidates to back publics right to call referendum on policy and officals. Got a number of positive replies. Texted the U.K. nationals I know here to check they know they can vote in general elections here. All who replied are already registered and do vote here. Start with a ripple. It doesn’t have to be a tsunami. Draw up questionnaire /checklist YOU will email/ show to candidates /Parties of reforms you seek letting them know your vote is contigent on these points.

      • Hi Tracey, not being much good on I.T. I actually missed your early reply to my submission! Thanks for that. I have actually done all the other things you suggest, to little avail, ie DDI CFM (Citizens First Movement) etc.
        I cannot help feeling a web-based electorate is the answer. It’s just how to do it. I could scan the hardcopy list and then write (or call) to all voters on it to get their email addresses …huge job though unless I focus on just my own village but what’s the point unless every village or equivalent has at least one person who’ll do the same. I’ll see if I can get some people interested. I’ll think more on it. Thanks again for your input.

  32. I’ve just discoverd this site and enjoy the sensible tone of the discussion, unlike another politics site which seems to be the residence of those who think expletives represent wit! Just one point on political salaries. Salaries of the “great and good” of the public service are determined by an external review. The last one which was proposing a 17% increase for ministers did so because the review body felt ministers and senior civil servants had fallen behind the bottom quartile of private executive salaries. Now given that our ministers were amongst the best paid in the EU what does that say about private sector executives? One economist friend of mine told me that the ratio of executive salries to the average industrial wage had had gone from 17 to 1 to 32 to one betwen 1997 and 2007. Huge amounts of talk and tme have been devoted to politician’s salaries and expenses but it seems to me that the huge explosion in those was a response to the rush for the trough among the elite of the private sector during the boom. If it was wrong to pay a hospital consultant 250000 how obscene was it to pay the CEO of Bank of Ireland ten times that? And that was the yardstick against which government and senior civil srvants measured themselves.

  33. @ Liam have a look at the response to the budget by Michael D Higgins

    At 1:40 into his speech he talks about people sitting on each other’s remuneration committees. Enough said, It was not for nothing that the union top brass fixed their salaries commensurate with those in the higher echelons of the Public Service.

    I was at a meeting where Blair Horan head of the CPSU said ” we asked for 600m and Bertie gave us the 1.2bn”. Then Bertie spins this when being interviewed by Ursula Halligan. Don’t forget as well as solving the age old problem of Northern Ireland I had to “negotiate” 4 social partnership deals too. How hard is it to negotiate? When someone asks you for 600 million, you just throw them 1.2bn? Of course it’s easy to throw away tax payers money. A different attitude to money was displayed when he won 10,000 euro in a GAA raffle. When he was asked if he would be giving the money to charity, he told us that he would be holding onto it as it would be handy to pay a few bills. The higher review body on Public Sector Pay gave Bertie an extra 37,000 at the end of the boom giving him a higher salary than the President of the Unite States of America. When the IT asked the trade union movement for a comment 9 out of 10 trade unions refused to criticise the deal. What does that tell you? Is benchmarking only a one way process? Upward only rent reviews are now deemed to be illegal.

  34. @Robert: Am I the Liam you’re addressing? I have no truck with TU plutocrats, far less with board directors. Do bear in mind two things however:
    (1) TU bosses are not paid by taxpayers but by their own members. How much per hour do you pay your solicitor to represent you. Don’t tell me. I don’t care. That’s your business. If TU members want to pay their bosses obscene salaries that’s their business!
    (2) The job of any TU boss is to represent their TU members and fight for the best deal they can. The fault lies with spineless politicians who haven’t the balls to take there guys on.
    (3) …in representing their members’ views TU bosses would stop screwing the government if their members wanted them to. But being greedy, self-centered folk they choose not to.
    (4) Benchmarking was dreamed up as a way of increasing salaries of public servants and politicians, by those same people. If you and your colleagues could write your own salary cheques and get the taxpayer to cough up would you have done so?
    (5) Our only real weapon is the ballot box. 40% of voters couldn’t be arsed voting. Another 40% vote for their own selfish ends (many poor eejits hoping to get the crumbs from the insider-elite table).
    (6) Labour gets the remaining 20% but that figure is growing because some of the eejits aren’t getting enough crumbs from their FF/FG masters.

    • @ Liam O’Mahony

      It appears we have are in agreement or almost.

      If there are 60 trade union officials earning their living from representing nurses, which their are, then nurses salaries must reflect that fact, they do. The money TU officials earn has to come from (i) someone selling a product (ii) someone selling a service oft times that service is “protected” by unions or has been set up as a monopoly such as the legal and medical professions. Joe bloggs must pay the prices that are passed on to joe bloggs (iii) Union “dues” can be paid for by the tax payer under benchmarking or other deals negotiated by Bertie and company. All thee bother me as I don’t like having my pocket picked.

      Your second point, totally agree with you but it is very much in their interest not to take them on as they benefit themselves from the increases “negotiated”.

      Point 3. Totally agree

      Point 4 As I have children and want them to live in a civilised society I believe that there must be limits put to people writing their own cheques. Agree with Fintan O’Toole that 100,000 is enough for anyone living on this island.

      5 Agree
      6 Agree

      7 Happy Christmas Liam!

    • The idea that Labour uniquely gets its votes from people interested in the future of the country is surely just a bit of a laugh?

      In fact, you could argue that a higher proportion of Labour TDs than others have depended on clientelist work to get elected, with a national average which has been significantly lower than a quota in any type of constituency.

      It’s a problem with them all – failing to see this misses the single biggest political reform issue.

  35. Very good aspirations,so would you set a timescale on achieving these ten objectives ,will you assign people to implement them?I don’t want false promises I’m looking for honesty and integrity and for someone who will represent me in parliament with those values ,no more Gombeen politicians please &abolish tthat Whip system ,it stifles democracy.

  36. I’ve suggested a ‘virtual’ government from a web-based electorate to operate in tandem with the ‘normal’ government elected by the same electorate (hard-copy electoral register). The big difference would be that our ‘virtual TDs’ would speak in favour or / against all proposals and vote on them BUT we the people would have to ratify every decision taken. We (those interested enough) would examine the arguments for and against and vote according to our own personal choice.
    We need a web-based electorate which facilitates citizens voting on each issue. A minimum no. of total votes to be cast to be valid (to overturn TDs’ vote) with a minimum % against the TDs’ decision.
    In time, I would envisage the virtual people’s democracy would supersede the current farce; and so true democracy would replace the very expensive circus we have at present. We could invite those with a genuine and declared vested interest and those with an impartial superior knowledge of the issues to contribute and then, we the people can decide without any input from greedy, arrogant, ignorant, crooks!!!
    Unfortunately my IT abilities are pitifully inadequate and I’d need others to set up the web-site. I’ll populate my town’s electorate after I get everyone’s email address (or as many as are willing to participate).

    • Farce, it is and a farce too far, which has run out of the peoples money and which has maxed out on the peoples credit in more ways than one. Just look at the preposterous mangling of the english language that we are witnessing on our radio and TV screens in the scramble to assume power. They, Labour and FG could have voted the Finance Bill down but that would have left them with the prospect of having to deal with a real emergency funding of the state. You would need guts to tackle that, so they voted for the Bill and the bailout with rates of 5.83%. This will officially end when there is no money left in the state and when we can no longer finance the crippling debt having spent every red cent on NAMA and insolvent banks. Remember Lenihan’s “this will be the cheapest bailout in the world”… Hohohan and Elderfield’s the banks are well capitalised?

      I think there is a lot in what you are proposing and I wish I could give it some serious consideration but cannot at the moment. All I will say is that the IT deficit is the least of it as there are plenty of good programers out there that will translate ideas into tech friendly interfaces. The most important election will be the one after this one because that will be the first election post FF, FG and Labour as they will all be reduced to political rubble at that stage Morgan Kelly has said as much.

  37. It seems to me that since the 1980s, we have shied away from the primary concept of our type of representative democracy – which is that we vote for a group of people to whom we, by our mandate, delegate the authority to wield power on our behalf.

    Do we vote for people to represent us in the Dail to act, or not? Power itself is not a bad thing. Without power, nothing gets done. The trick is to impose rigorous oversight, and have mechanisms in place to severely punish abuse of authority.

    Since the 1980s, we have steadily eroded this position, because we saw that politicians had abused this power to feather their own nests. We sought to curtail their ability to abuse this power, by circumscribing it. At least, this has arisen in the culture. It has led to the common Ministerial bleat that they acted on “best advice”. “Best advice” being what their departmental civil servants said. We have created an ultra “Yes Prime Minister” situation, in which the civil servant tail wags the government dog.

    This cannot be tolerated. Civil servants are there to provide support for the Minister in implementing government policy. They may even support the framing of these policies. They cannot, ever, legitimately oppose or obstruct the expressed will of the government represented by their Minister. (Of course, as private citizens, they can offer an opinion, but not in the course of their duty as civil servants). To suggest otherwise is to usurp democracy in Ireland, and hand it over to faceless, unaccountable, and unelected bureaucrats.

    Apart from this corrupting factor in the Civil Service, we must clamp down on expenses fraud which is rife throughout the public service and civil service. We must punish abuses of privileges such as flexi-time.

    Above all, we must implement a cross-service flexibility of resources, so that we can end obsolete activities and rapidly implement relevant ones, without adding to the public service headcount. While professional roles such as Doctors, nurses, and similar cannot and should not be swapped, there is a huge number of clerical/administrative roles that are in effect, the same. Anyone in such a role can easily be retrained into a new one.

    We do require secure public service jobs, in order that the state can run. The quid-pro-quo for such security must be absolute flexibility. Such ongoing change is the norm in the private sector, and there should be no suggestion of payment for accepting such change.

    The huge increases in spending on health services over the last ten years were eaten up largely by increases in administrative costs – by which is meant the cost of additional bureaucrats. It is a virtual certainty that the vast amount of this activity is waste. (I speak from direct knowledge here).

    I am certain that this waste is mirrorred across all other public services.

    The state owes it to the people to spend public money effectively. Our public service does not share this ideal. This has to change.

    Oh, and would someone please tell the public service that I am not their “customer”, I am a Citizen. Calling me a “customer” implies that I have a choice as to whether or not to choose their service. See how far I get when I decide not to “use” the Revenue service to pay tax…

  38. So that was my tangential response to the first suggestion regarding publishing financial accounts.

    All expenses submitted should be immediately subject to public scrutiny. There is no excuse for this not being implemented within 6 months to 1 year. (The time which would be required to take an antiquated process and automate it – a generous timeline I might add).

    This should apply to all public servants, at all levels.

    I am very wary of the mob-politics which inevitably follows the kind of democracy implied by the proposed “Citizens Forum”, or the online electorate proposed above.

    A study of Athenian Demos and the fall of the Roman Republic demonstrates that such populist political machines contain the seed of their own destruction. In Rome Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus all used the mob to secure power. All threatened Roman Republican institutions. Caesar eventually overthrew these institutions, for which he was assassinated. His heir (Octavian) consolidated Caesar’s coup d’etat and established the role of Emperor. This was the end of the Roman Republic that had such pride in its civic institutions.

    In the early part of the last century, we saw the rise of the dictatorships on the back of the manipulated mob.

    Direct democracy cannot escape this risk. This is why our form of democracy is far from perfect, but it is close to the best we can achieve.

    I for one, would oppose any attempt to impose direct democracy in our state.

    I want effective checks and balances between the organs of the state, so that:

    1. Our constitutional imperatives are upheld (whatever they happen to be in any given time)
    2. Our state is protected from totalitarianism or creeping loss of sovereignty. (If we’re going to give up some sovereignty for mutual benefit, then this should be done openly, not hidden behind weasel words).

  39. To clarify a point – I’m not saying that Ministers don’t wield power. I’m saying that the culture we have created has addicted them to plausible deniability, and has sheltered them from having to take due responsibility commensurate with the authority delegated to them via the electoral mandate.

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