Reformcard first scores

From Jane Suiter

Reformcard – the political reform scorecard developed for election 2011 – has scored all the political parties. We evaluated each Parties’ proposals in five categories of political reform – Oireachtas reform, Electoral reform, Open Government reform, Public Sector reform and Local Government reform.  Details on each are set out below.

The scoring, undertaken by many of the editors and contributors to this site, ranks Fine Gael highest, followed by Labour, Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and Sinn Féin. The scorecard includes all party manifestos and all background documents released by yesterday.

A full breakdown of the results can be viewed on but in summary, the total scores, marked out of a maximum 100 points are:

Fine Gael                    73

Labour                         68

Fianna Fáil                 58

Green Party                53

Sinn Féin                    26

Fine Gael scored highest in Open Government reform and joint highest with Labour on Public Sector reform. Fianna Fáil scored highest on Oireachtas reform, Sinn Féin scored highest on Electoral reform while the Green Party scored highest on Local Government reform.

One noticeable category where each of the Parties scored poorly was on local government reform.

Some general observations

Fianna Fáil

Despite coming very late to the reform debate, Fianna Fáil has scored reasonably highly. This is in large part due to their high score on Oireachtas reform where the parties proposal to require Cabinet Ministers  to step down from their constituencies and to allow non TDs into the Cabinet both scored highly. However, Fianna Fáil lacked detailed policy in a number of important areas including open government, where there was only a cursory mention of Freedom of Information, little on opening up government data and under developed polices on protecting whistleblowers and regulating lobbyists. The party essentially had no proposals under local government and these are still expected.

Fine Gael

Fine Gael scored highest, perhaps unsurprisingly given the period of time over which it has been developing its policies. Its proposals on open government and on reforming the public services were particular coherent and well thought through. On open government Fine Gael was the only party to seriously think about following the lead of other English speaking democracies and moving towards opening all government data. On reforming the Oireachtas Fine Gael scored well in reforming the Dáil procedures but did not seriously address the issue of executive dominance. Fine Gael scored lowest in terms of its plans to reform local government where it had few measures to increase accountability, a vital reform if more powers are to be devolved.

Green Party

Despite being a partly that in part markets itself as one of reform the Green Party did not score as highly as might be expected.  It did score relatively highly for its local government reforms, particularly in the area of restructuring, local mayors and so on. It also scored relatively well in opening up government to the people. However, the party lacked coherent policy proposals in reforming the public sector and had little detail on reforming the Dáil.

Labour Party

The Labour party is particularly strong on open government measures and particularly on reforming FOI, whistleblowers and lobbying, It also scores highly in terms of its proposals to reform the public service where it has detailed proposals on a new ministry of public sector reform and on a revised budgetary process and on moves to improve the gender balance in public life. However, it is weak on reforming Dáil procedures with an emphasis on longer hours rather than more efficient procedures giving TDs more powers and on reducing the power of the Cabinet.

Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin does not appear to have engaged to the same extent with the political reform agenda. It is strongest on measures to increase participation and on Seanad reform. However, it has not proposed much coherent reform in local government, in open government or in reforming the public service.

Citizen initiatives

All parties have proposed involving the citizens in future decisions to one extent or another and all have proposals to engage though citizen initiatives or constitutional assemblies. The Greens however would like a referendum before constituting a citizen assembly, Fianna Fáil advocate a citizen assembly with some unspecified role for elected representatives, while Labour’s idea is still involves special interest groups alongside random citizens. The scope is also different with Labour, the Greens and Sinn Fein preferring a rewriting of the constitution and the others preferring to limit its scope.

Reformcardexplanatory note

1. How we make laws/legislative

Now, the Cabinet (ministers selected by the Taoiseach) can take decisions to enact laws and policies without scrutiny by the Dáil.   How decisions are made is not transparent and accountability is weak.  Backbench TDs, opposition TDs, and Senators, do not have the opportunity to examine and debate proposals in detail.  Committees do not scrutinise laws before they are enacted.  The opposition is always on the back foot, with few research and policy resources compared to Government, which has the whole civil service at its command.

Experts suggest that strengthening the Dáil to balance Cabinet power is a necessary reform.

Reformcard will score each party on its policies around:

  • Cabinet dominance
  • Reform of the Dáil
  • Reform of the Senate
  • Strengthening the Committee System
  • Empowering the Opposition

2. How we elect politicians/electoral

Our electoral system is often blamed for all of the problems in our politics.  This is too simplistic.  All electoral systems involve trade offs and compromise: none is perfect, and so it is impossible to agree on whether we need a whole new electoral system and, if so, exactly what it might look like. .

Experts do agree that some change is required, starting with an independent electoral commission to bring together existing electoral law and examine some basic problems with our system.  The disconnect between people and politics, the alarmingly low rate of women TDs, low voter turnout (especially among young people), new emigrants right to vote; and better ways to involve people in the decisions that affect them will all be evaluated.

Reformcard will score each party on its policies around:

  • An Independent Electoral Commission
  • Women in politics
  • Increasing voter turnout
  • Votes for new emigrants
  • Citizen involvement in policy-making

3. How transparent our Government is to its citizens/open government

Trust between people and politics has eroded and must be rebuilt.  An open and transparent Government system, accessible to citizens, is key to achieving that trust. Access to Government information through improved Freedom of Information processes and simply sharing Government data online is required.  Rules for party and election funding should be improved, whistleblowers should be protected and lobbyists must be regulated.

Reformcard will score each party on its policies around:

  • Freedom of Information: restoring and strengthening it
  • Access to Government data
  • Political party and election funding
  • Protecting Whistleblowers
  • Regulating lobbyists

4. How we govern ourselves locally/local government

If national politicians to focus more exclusively on national issues then we need stronger local government to make sure things are working locally.  Now, local government has very limited power: it has tiny areas of control, little financial autonomy/funding, and is very fragmented.  With power comes responsibility, and so if local government is strengthened it must also be more accountable to local citizens.

Reformcard will score each party on its policies around:

  • Funding for local government
  • Structural re-organisation of local government
  • Empowering local government
  • Accountability in local government
  • The results of policy decisions at local government level

5. How the public service does its job/public service reform

Government makes decisions, while the public service plays a role in making policy and implementing it: it is responsible for ensuring that what Government says happens.  The need for significant public service reform is accepted.  Basic elements of a strong public service, delivering for its citizens are: accountability for decisions taken, evaluation of policy based on results, attracting new talent by recruiting from outside the civil service, planning around policy making so that is ‘future-proofed’.

Reformcard will score each party on its policies around:

  • Evaluating policy based on outcomes
  • Accountability among civil servants
  • Institutions for driving reform
  • Hiring talent from outside the civil service
  • Planning for the future (not just until the next election)

24 thoughts on “Reformcard first scores

  1. I’d like to point out this scorecards obvious bias that assumes particular ideas are good. Such as an increase gender “balance”. I havent seem any objective reasoning to point out why this a priority.

  2. I am interested to see how this progresses.

    As a matter of interest, does the Scorecard team have a predefined value system against which to judge the various parties and their stated policies?

    For example, I don’t believe in list systems, and I don’t believe in so-called “gender” quotas. (The correct word is “sex”, but we’re too prudish to use this word now).

    I think such a move will be set us back. We need the best candidates possible, and I don’t care if the candidate is a man or a woman. I want them to be upright, honest, ambitious for Ireland, clever, competent, and politically astute.

    List systems and quotas usurp the sovereignty of the people, and this shouldn’t be tolerated.

    Incidentally, just because it is done somewhere else is irrelevant. Other countries don’t have a monopoly on wisdom, honesty, or effective ways of doing things.

    So, what is the value system sitting behind the scorecard in each category of evaluation?

    • It’s an interesting question, Cormac, and one that deserves some reflection. I think that the belief system that I personally brought to the process of grading the parties is based on the goals of widening Irish democracy to accommodate a wider number of voices than it currently does, and of improving the quality and openness of government decision making.

      The debate here seems to be about the legitimacy of the former value, so I’ll explain how it drove my grading of the parties’ reform proposals. On the issues of gender balance, turnout, voting for emigrants/immigrants, legislative process, citizen involvement in policy making, and hiring from outside the civil service, I gave the highest marks to parties that put forward policies that would allow groups that have traditionally been excluded to gain a voice and to exercise meaningful power in Ireland’s political system. Parties got the highest marks for proposals that were realistic and practical, and where there was a firm commitment by the party to take a specific action if in government.

      In terms of the gender issue specifically, the overall value that drove my decision making is that women as citizens and as human beings have as much of a right/duty as men to act as public representatives. However, because of a myriad of sociological factors, because of the maleness of our existing political culture, and because of the careerist nature of Irish politics (where, once elected, representatives typically try to stay in power until they reach retirement age), women are grossly underrepresented in Irish political life. And, for all the recent talk of reform, the major parties, the ‘gatekeepers’ who control the vast majority of seats in our legislature, have all nominated predominantly male slates of candidates, again, just as they have done in every election since the founding of our state. I believe that we need some sort of action to change this state of affairs.

      I don’t think that anybody is massively enamoured with the idea of imposing a gender/sex quota on the party selectorates. However, I think it’s a little bit like Winston Churchill’s line about democracy being the worst form of government apart from all those others that have been tried, all of the international evidence and research points to the necessity of a party-level candidate gender quota to bring a critical mass of female candidates onto the scene. By doing nothing, you simply perpetuate the status quo.

      So, for a party to be credible on improving the representation of women, it seemed to me that some sort of quota had to be promised.

      You argue that ‘just because it is done somewhere else is irrelevant’ but on what basis can we learn how democratic innovations would play out, if not by studying how they have played out in other political systems? And how would we ever improve our political system without looking at, and adopting, ideas and methods that have produced desirable results elsewhere?

      • Matthew, thank you for your considered and detailed reply. It is sincerely appreciated.

        From my point of view, there is an error in presuming that in an ideal world there would be an exact correspondence between the ratio of males to females in society in general, and the ratio of males to females in the Dail.

        In the equal society that we aspire to, this should not matter in the slightest, should it?

        Even if one was to concede that such a state of affairs is desirable in and of itself, this still doesn’t mean that it should be done. One has to consider conflicting priorities, and the efficiency of politics in delivering benefits for everyone.

        In considering a hierarchy of importance, surely it is more important that government is run well, cost-effectively (because tax money is hard earned, and spending it wisely is a solemn duty), before other priorities are addressed?

        To achieve a well-run government we need to best people. A list system won’t help us achieve this, as they are too prone to internal party politics. Quotas are inherently unfair on the candidates that would put themselves forward. They are also unfair on the group that the candidates seek to represent.

        It is more important that we put the best candidates in front of the public for election, than it is to attempt to artificially engineer some sort of unproven ideal of a split along sexes in political representation.

        I have worked with and for men and women at all levels of enterprises in my career to date. I could not care whether a person is male or female. I want to be assured that they are competent, conscientious, capable of creating support for policies, experienced and able to implement these policies. I’d also like to assure myself that the candidate is in general superior to the alternative candidates.

        I grew up in a family of three boys and four girls. My wife, my mother and my four sisters are all professinoals. They are all competent, hard-working, conscientrious, and able. In their lives they have set themselves standards of excellence that they have always met. I need no convincing of the abilities of women. I have no silly illusions about any supposed differences in ability between men and women. If a woman wants to get involved in politics, then as long as she has the ability and competence, then she will get there.

        The issue isn’t that women can’t. It is that women aren’t. The root of this problem is really the general apathy to politics in general that was apparent over the last 25 years.

        This apathy seems to be changing. But attitudes to politicians aren’t. While politicians remain
        the object of public scorn, careers in politics will remain very unattractive to everyone.

        We have to change the image of political life, and change our apathetic attitude. If we don’t want to be ruled by inferiors, we must step forward ourselves.

        I don’t think that quotas will address the irresponsible malaise in the citizenry regarding political activism.

        In relation to what is done elsewhere. I don’t mean to suggest that we cannot learn from others. I’m saying that there seems a default position in Ireland that best practice is invented elsewhere, and we should simply adopt the approach others have used in a “cut and paste” manner.

        We have a great potential for innovation. We should in general resolve our own problems – it will build a self-belief amongst the people.

        If ideas can be demonstrated to have worked elsewhere, then perhaps, if our circumstances are an exact match, there is no reason that we shouldn’t adopt what others have done. However, “success” is a word fraught with risk of deep subjectivity.

        For example, that property taxes have been implemented in other EU states doesn’t mean that these Capital Taxes are a good idea, and certainly doesn’t mean that we should also adopt them.

        The same goes for quotas. They may indeed lead to higher female representation. However, as far as I am concerned, this comes along with these:

        1. My democratic choice has been artificially limited to suit the idealism of someone else. I find this to be undemocratic and unfairly restrictive.

        2. It cannot produce the best selection of candidates, except by accident

        3. It is a proposed solution to an inaccurately diagnosed problem.

        I think it is much more important that we:

        1. Rehabilitate politics in the public eye
        2. Promote a politically active citizenry
        3. Increase the level of political and civic education in schools
        4. Increase childcare supports in society (children are a public good, and we should invest in them as a general principle)

        The fact is though, that politics is a lonely life involving huge personal sacrifice. It of necessity involves a large amount of time away from home and family, exposure to the public eye, constant public criticism, etc. It is not something that people enter into lightly. Neither is this likely to change. It is the nature of politics.

        When someone chooses to be a politician, they have to willingly take all this on. No amount of quotas or social changes such as the ones I’ve listed will alter these facts.

        So, I quote back to you that line of Churchill’s. Without a quota, democracy is still the worst form of government apart from all those others that have been tried. It seems to me that with a quota, government in Ireland would become one of those others.

  3. Jane,

    Thanks for this. You have given more information than I can find on the site. However, we need far more transaparency in relation to the scoring on individual items.

  4. I’m still not convinced a gender quota will result in better politicans – women are just as capable of being cronies and gombeens as men are and the evidence of those women who have been elected doesn’t inspire much hope. I’m not sure if the system really does stop these mythical progressive and reforming men and women from getting through – I think that actually there are fewer of the ‘right’ type of candidate, man or women, than we might think.

    List systems are highly undemocratic as all they do is transfer more power to the parties – perhaps primariy systems would be more open and honest.

    Proper reform of local government and a change in attitude among the public, not only among politcians, would go along way to the this ‘new’ Republic Enda Kenny claims he can deliver on by 2016.

  5. i doubt if the following would score many points on your reform card, but it might just stimulate some ideas that would . . .

    a twelve point manifesto.

    1 make local government sovereign over local issues and
    local taxation. allocate property taxes, on local property, to
    local government. allocate other taxes to national government.

    2 divide sectors of the economy, ( just as roads are at
    present), into those which are national, and those which are of
    local responsibility.

    3 thus national government can then become largely non
    territorial (see dermot desmond’s suggestions ) and the dail can
    be freed of local pothole issues to concentrate upon national
    and european affairs.

    within a europe with free movement of labour, local government
    voting can go according to a voter’s current (registered) residence,
    while nationality and a national vote can be allocated to the individual,
    and in accordance with the passport that they elect to carry. dail
    candidates could still elect to campaign in a local area, or around a
    local count centre. equally a candidate might choose to campaign
    among (e g) fishermen, or polish immigrants, or any group with the
    potential to provide a quota.

    4 reconstitute the senate as a weekly television programme.
    acknowledge the media as the forum for much current national debate,
    and formalise its interview and debate procedures. regularise and
    formalise the powers and responsibilities of the interviewers, and the
    right of reply.

    pay no salaries, but basic travel expenses only, to the elected senators.
    their duties could take up one half day / per week at times when the
    dail was sitting.

    5 also televise the dail bar by means of real time c.c.t.v., – and druid’s
    glen golfcourse at weekends. cronyism will never be stamped out, so
    let the entire nation join in and be cronies.

    6 apply the freedom of information acts to all financial accounts,
    in summary form, after a period of six years – ( this period allowed to
    protect business confidentiality.) abolish the regulator – as a useful
    economy. instead, let the journalists sieve through the data, for the
    story. enact a whistleblowers’ charter. also, to counteract muck
    raking, enact legislation to provide some protection from invasion
    of privacy in areas other than remuneration and taxation matters.

    8 the president to hold a dinner each year to honour the 100 highest
    taxpayers, and these individuals to be allowed to fly a small presidential
    flag on their private or company car to identify true patriots to the
    grateful citizenry.

    7 reintroduce the penalty of exile, as an appropriate and economical
    penalty for offshore tax evasion.

    8 hold an annual televised lottery among all offenders in irish prisons,
    (a) for serious offenders, and (b) for minor offenders. the ‘winners’
    to get a life sentence and a five year sentence respectively. all other
    sentences to be reduced by 20%. this measure empties the gaols
    somewhat, while acting as a huge and scary deterrent to the ticket
    holders. not fair ? but violent crime is not fair – ( see any victim
    impact statement.)

    hold a weekly socialist lottery : one millionaire chosen by lot to be
    stripped of all assets. every man woman and child in the country to
    be given 25 cents / per million euro liquidated.

    9 all hospital car parks will be run by law by supermarket store
    managers, who are orientated towards getting people into their
    premises, not like the health boards who are orientated towards
    shrubberies, clamping, and generally reserving the best places for
    themselves. supermarkets are there to help people. the health service is about making money. think about it.

    10 make a grand bargain with the protestant northern irish people
    on radical decentralisation. the bargain to be on the lines of :
    ‘cut loose from westminster and we will cut loose from rome.’
    thus undermining the fears perpetuating the sectarian divide.

    let catholic bishops be elected by the priests of the dioceses. this is
    not a political issue, but an issue for the laity in the parishes. it would
    merely reflect the practice by which the pope is elected by the cardinals. (of course every cardinal would first need to have been elected a bishop and to this extent the catholic church might become more relevant, more responsive).

    on the principle of non territorial democracy (see above) let local
    government in northern ireland stay local, but let national identity
    be optional. thus a ‘nationalist’ in belfast might have a local vote
    and pay property taxes in belfast, but choose to have a national vote
    in dublin, or rather, have a vote for the dublin parliament and pay
    national taxes to the republic. this is little different from the present
    situation of certain migrants within the european union.

    try all of this for a five year period. if it was not working at the end
    of that time – give three counties of northern ireland to the republic
    of ireland, and three to scotland. these latter would revert to the
    arrangements of dalriadan period when a gaelic kingdom straddled
    the sea between antrim and argyll.

    cancel all 2016 anniversary celebrations, and bring it all forward to
    2014 – 1000 years from the battle of clontarf. (munster 1 – scandinavia and dublin financial services – 0)

    better to celebrate a victory than a romantic and glorious defeat, under the present circumstances ?

    11 establish a minimum wage. cap all salaries paid by the state not in
    absolute terms in euro, but as ratios – x times the minimum wage.
    thus the civil servants and politicians would be motivated to do their
    best for the poorly paid by raising the minimum wage, in their own

    12 always have the president elected from candidates of the opposite
    sex from the taoiseach of the day. leave all other political gender
    balance to the regular decisions and common sense of the electorate.

  6. I have now read the explanatory memorandum on Public Sector reform and still believe that it is very narrow. It says little or nothing about the organisational culture, (hierachical, patriachical,anti-intellectual, authoritarian and scretive) While the assessment at large deals with the secrecy it doesnt deal with any ot the other cultural attributes that shape the way work is done.
    There is a wealth of ideas within the public sector workforce but noboby is consulting with them-not unions, not management, not government and now not political scientists.
    I would have to say that the Labour document showed a deeper understanding of the workings of the sector than any other and I mentioned this in the posting on the Labour proposals.
    I really think a lot more work needs to be done on forming a change management policy for the public sector before anyone, academic experts or not, can presume to score proposals for change in this area.

    • @Vincent,

      I think you’ll find that, when it comes to the PS, Labour, IN PRINCIPLE, will be in favour of all sorts of wonderful innovations; but when their paymasters in the TUs get involved we’ll be into ‘internal industrial relations’.

      • Paul,

        To be quite honest I came to this site in the hope that there might be positive debate on public policy matters. I am quite tired of your partisan rantings.

    • Vincent any expert in any of the areas will argue it is too narrow and of course if you had a score card with just public sector reform it could have 25 indicators on its own. This was our best consensus judgement on the top level reforms likely to make an impact. Some of the issues you address here could be under some of these indicators.

    • @Vincent,

      Apologies for introducing ‘low politics’. PS reform is probably a 10-year project, ideally overseen by the Dail and conducted to the greatest extent possible in a non-partisan manner (supported by genuinely independent – and disinterested – external advice and evidence). General election campaigns are usually not the best occasions for consideration of the nitty-gritty. And I have as little affection for the ‘slash and burn’ instincts of the ‘right’ as I have for the ‘left’s defence of featherbedding.

    • @ Vincent.

      (Apologies that this is the second time I’ve posted this – I forgot to do it as a reply to your last post, so this second one is to fix that error).

      Labour are part of the problem when it comes to the Leviathan that is the public service in Ireland. Labour and the Unions created the problems, along with their members in Public Service management.

      The problems we see in our economy and society today are symptoms of the malaise in our public service. Poor regulation of the banks – public servants and politicians. Vast increases in health spending failing to deliver increased or better services to patients – public service and public service unions. Massive complexity in profusion of roles, terms, conditions, and remuneration across the public service – the public service and so-called public service unions. Resolute refusal to change – the public service and public service unions. Accepting payment for change without delivering change – politicians, public service, and public service unions. Failure to act in the public interest – public service and public service unions. Squashing Freedom of Information initiatives – public service and public service unions. Rampant expenses fraud – the public service. Failure to properly govern expenses and be financially continent – the public service unions, and the public service(FAS money).

      Labour are hand in glove with the Unions, and are not in a position to implement the necessary changes. The Labour party is ideologically opposed to the kinds of changes that are needed – for example, the complete extraction of public service unions from management of the public services, the empowerment of managers to select their own staff members, and similar.

      Labour will never be able to do the necessary.

      This has nothing to do with anti-Labour views. These are simple practical facts. Labour is beholden to one of the biggest vested interests in the country – the unions.

  7. @Jane Suitor,

    Once again, many thanks to all of you (and the voluntary support) for this effort. It seems voters are becoming more focused on these issues and, how ever much some might niggle about its nature, this provides a very useful tool.

    In passing I note that FG has been marked down for failing to tackle executive dominance sufficiently robustly (yes, I know it’s my ‘hobby horse’) – and I expect others are likewise. Let’s hope it acts as a prod. There’s a very small window of opportunity between now and the 25th while the politicos might actaully be listening to voters.

    I haven’t locked at the calc sheet, but I wonder is it possible to separate those reforms which might be enacted directly by the Dail and those which will require Constitutional amendment.

    I suspect that all the factions, by presenting extensive menus of political reform festooned with requirements for Constitutional amendments, are planning to kick this entire bothersome exercise as far as possible into the long grass as they can. They need to be compelled to spell out what they will achieve in the ‘first 100 days in government’.

  8. @ Vincent.

    Labour are part of the problem when it comes to the Leviathan that is the public service in Ireland. Labour and the Unions created the problems, along with their members in Public Service management.

    The problems we see in our economy and society today are symptoms of the malaise in our public service. Poor regulation of the banks – public servants and politicians. Vast increases in health spending failing to deliver increased or better services to patients – public service and public service unions. Massive complexity in profusion of roles, terms, conditions, and remuneration across the public service – the public service and so-called public service unions. Resolute refusal to change – the public service and public service unions. Accepting payment for change without delivering change – politicians, public service, and public service unions. Failure to act in the public interest – public service and public service unions. Squashing Freedom of Information initiatives – public service and public service unions. Rampant expenses fraud – the public service. Failure to properly govern expenses and be financially continent – the public service unions, and the public service(FAS money).

    Labour are hand in glove with the Unions, and are not in a position to implement the necessary changes. The Labour party is ideologically opposed to the kinds of changes that are needed – for example, the complete extraction of public service unions from management of the public services, the empowerment of managers to select their own staff members, and similar.

    Labour will never be able to do the necessary.

    This has nothing to do with anti-Labour views. These are simple practical facts. Labour is beholden to one of the biggest vested interests in the country – the unions.

    • There really must be a full moon.Im a public servant looking for reform and I am being attacked with anti labour party rants?????? WTF??

      • Vincent – I didn’t mean to give the impression I’m attacking you. I was addressing your point about the Labour party, and any possibility they have of implementing change in the Public Service.

        I know there are many public servants who are hard working, keen to make changes, and keen to deliver good services for our people.

        But the prevailing culture, work ethic, and concept of what management is cannot facilitate change.

        I’m sure you’ve seen examples of people taking a reasonable privileges – flexi-time and expenses for example, and abusing them. (If you haven’t, I have).

        On top of that, I know of many instances of management failures – failures to initiate performance improvement procedures, failure to initiate disciplinary procedures, inappropriate delegation of awkward tasks, unfair allocation of work (to the good people, leaving the lead-swingers with less to do), inappropriate behaviour with the public, etc. etc.

        This is not to mention the idiotic procedures used in recruitment. It is nonsensical that a manager plays no part in selecting new team members. Managers are responsible for creating teams that perform. The foundation of this is selecting people that fill gaps in current skill mixes in a given team, people who have the required skills and experiences to be able to perform. If a manager is just told who his team members will be, then this is the first step in undermining the ability to manage. Unions should play absolutely no part whatsoever in selecting staff for recruitment, promotion, or transfer.

        If you haven’t seen any of these, then perhaps you’re in one of the rare departments that work.

        I have great admiration for public servants who are good workers, who know what real work is, who are scrupulous and conscientious, and who are ready to roll in with change as it arises.

  9. @Cormac it’s certainly an interesting debate, but i think that you may be overblowing the extent to which your freedoms as a voter are circumscribed under a quota system. With or without quotas, if you want to vote for a party, you can only vote for the candidates nominated by that party. Most parties are very conservative in terms of nomination strategy, so younger people like me often don’t get offered someone that we’d like to vote for. In several constituencies in the last election, there we NO female candidates.

    On the selection of the ‘best’ candidates, there are no objective markers of human excellence, so no system is going to be able to select the ‘best’ people. Though FF’s proposals on taking on ministers from outside of the Dail with area expertise and FG’s promise that at least a thrid of new civil service hires at PO and above will be external sound to me like a good way of improving the professional qualities of key decision makers in our system.

    On your point about a mis-diagnosed problem I am, to be honest, inclined to agree with you. I imagine that many women, and younger people (who are also chronically under-represented in our parliament) are turned off politics because of the high levels of agression and negativity that seem to prevail. More generally, the lack of active involvement in the population is a real problem, as it gives rise to a mistrust of the system and a (justified) feeling of political impotence.

    Sadly, I don’t think quotas will, by themselves, undo all or even many of these problems. I just think that they’d make things marginally better, and allow women a say in the making of our laws that is more proportionate to their share of the population.

    • I have no problem with there being constituencies with no female candidates, just like I’d have no problem if there were a constituency with no male candidates.

      There are objective measures of excellence when one is speaking within the confines of a role to be performed by a person. For any job to which a person is to be recruited, we construct a job description, and match a set of desired skills and experiences to that job. We then seek to find a person that most closely matches that description. It is a bit of a hit and miss process, but it does allow us to select better candidates for a given job. (Or at least, wer are free to make our own mistakes in doing so).

      The notion that we can’t narrow down a key set of skills, attributes, and experiences that would be desirable for a politician is not very realistic. We do this all the time. We look at how politicians act on television, we read their statements in the newspapers, we can study their policies and manifestos. We compare these to the same in other candidates and decide for whom we will vote.

      Women do have a say in making our laws. Women elect people to the Dail, the same as men. It is a fallacy to think that women will make a radical difference to policies in play. Consider women that wielded significant power in history – Elizabeth, Grainne O’Malley, Victoria, Margaret Thatcher – for that matter – Cleopatra.

      I would like to see a much more active citizenry. I think it is a key civic responsibility to be politically and economically informed. I think our present state of affairs was brought about largely by apathy and public service intransigence. With a more politically aware citizenry, we would have more capable men and women in Irish politics, which would be a good thing.

      A quota system won’t address the key problem.

      It might be the case that I have a limited range of options anyway. But, the key point is that my range of options would be further limited by a quota system, and this is to place an unproven ideology and theory over my democratic rights.

  10. Those who support the retention of the Senate constantly talk about reforming the Senate but there have been very few concrete suggestions.I am a candidate for the Senate on the NUI panel. I have made some radical proposals for reform based on the Australian Senate which would extend the franchise to every citizen and bring the necessary relevance and vitality back to the Senate. You can see these proposals on my website

  11. An innovative, easy to follow scorecard called Reformcard will rank each of the political parties’ proposals on political reform. Independently verified by a panel of academic experts (see note 1 below), Reformcard will score each party based on the quality of their policies on political reform.

    Reformcard will evaluate proposals under five key headings, with each heading including five indicators (see note 2 below). They include how we make laws, how we elect politicians, transparency, local government and public service. Each party will be scored on 25 aspects of political reform, and will be graded out of a maximum of 100 for the effectiveness of their proposals.

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