Power to the people? A summary of party proposals on Citizen Assemblies.

Posted by Matt Wall, Feb 18th, 2011.

It’s amazing how rapidly an idea can take off. I first heard of Citizen Assemblies in 2009 when I was doing research work for the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Constitution. The Committee was looking at mechanisms to reform our electoral system. Broadly speaking, the reason for using a Citizen Assembly is to avoid a situation where political institutions are selected by partisan politicians.

An example of why it can be a bad idea to let partisan actors dictate the terms of institutional reform can be found in the referendums held to change the Irish electoral system by Fianna Fáil in 1959 and 1968. In both cases, the proposed alternative electoral system put before the people was a UK-style first-past-the-post system. While, at the time, the Fianna Fáil leadership argued that this system would benefit the country by reducing party system fragmentation and encouraging a more responsible brand of politics, it just so happened that first-past-the-post would have substantially (and disproportionately) benefited Fianna Fáil in terms of their share of seats. It was only because the Irish electorate twice rejected First-Past-the-Post that we are not stuck with that grossly unfair and capricious system in Ireland today. So, with political parties being so directly interested in the shape of reforms, there is a danger that partisan self-interest and the public good can become confused.

All of the parties represented in the Joint Committee agreed with this line of reasoning, and recommended in their report that a Citizen Assembly should be established and that it should examine the operation of PR-STV and make recommendations on electoral reform. However, since the publication of that report in July 2010, and especially during the election campaign, the agenda has evolved rapidly. Several parties are now calling for Citizen Assemblies to be charged with a wholesale re-writing of the Constitution. All major parties ( FG, Lab, FF, SF, and the Greens) have included proposals for some sort of Citizen Assembly in their campaign literature.

Discussion of the relative merits of these proposals has been rather lost in the (admittedly entertaining) constituency-by-constituency Battle Royale coverage, and due to the intense scrutiny on party proposals to deal with the fiscal, employment, and banking crises faced by Ireland. However, the way in which we decide on changes to our constitution, the most important legal document in the state, is of huge relevance. I would advise every Irish voter to read the parties’ proposals on this topic and to factor them into their vote choice next Friday.Each party proposal is linked below, but I seek to provide a quick summary in terms of 1) Composition 2) Scope and 3) Powers.

Fine Gael

Fine Gael’s latest New Politics policy document proposes two institutions: An Online Citizens’ Forum  and a Citizen Assembly. I elaborate on both below.

Online Citizens forum (see ‘New Politics’, p. 4) supplemented with a series of ‘Town Hall’ meetings.

Composition: As far as I can make out, anybody who sends a submission or rocks up to a Town Hall meeting will be allowed to participate.

Scope: Propose changes to ‘institutional articles’ of Irish constitution.

Power: Consultative (i.e. the power to make suggestions, but not to put proposals forward for  referendums).

‘A Citizens Assembly’(see ‘New Politics’ p. 7)

Composition: 100 members of the public who will be ‘chosen from the public to reflect the demographic make-up of Ireland’(p.7).

Scope: Electoral System, Role of Women in Politics.

Power: Not 100% clear, but seems to be consultative: ‘The purpose of the Assembly will be to make recommendations on how the electoral system might be reformed’.

To my mind, the key weakness of both of FG’s Citizen Assembly bodies is their lack of meaningful power; the experience of the Dutch Citizen Assembly shows us that ‘recommendations’ can simply be shelved by elected politicians.

Labour

A Constitutional convention (Laid out in their recent policy document: Labour’s Plan for a New Constitution):

 

Composition: 30:30:30 system. The general public will account for only 30 of the 90 members of Labour’s proposed convention. 30 will be elected members of the Oireachtas and it’s totally unclear to me who the other 30 will be – some kind of mix of lawyers, academics, and members of various unspecified organizations. The composition element is thus a key weakness of Labour’s proposal.

Here is the system as explained in the Labour’s plan for a new Constitution policy doc, p. 7):  

‘The convention will be made up of three 30-member sections. One section will be composed of members of the Oireachtas appointed to reflect the composition of the next Dáil and Seanad.

The second section’s 30 members will come from representative associations and organisations, community bodies and will also include academic and legal experts. The third section will be made up of 30 members of the general public randomly selected from the electoral register in much the same way as citizens are selected for jury service’.

 Scope: Produce a new draft constitution for the Republic of Ireland within 12 months of its establishment, propose other political and legislative reforms.

Power: As far as I can make out, the new draft constitution devised by the Convention (and other reform ideas) will be submitted to the Oireachtas. It’s not clear whether the Oireachtas will amend the draft or not before submitting it to a take-it-or-leave-it  referendum on the adoption of a new Constitution some time before the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic in 2016.

Fianna Fáil

A Citizen’s Assembly (laid out in their party manifesto, p. 31-32)

Composition: Unclear, but broadly aims to ‘constitute the Assembly so that it includes people from all sections of society – not representatives of organisations’ (FF manifesto, p. 31)

 Scope: Focus on 3 areas – the electoral system, the Oireachtas, and government membership.

Powers: Consultative. Fianna Fáil strongly asserts that elected representatives should have a role in the reform process. More than any other party proposal, they make it clear that the Citizen Assembly will not have any powers of implementation – which will rest (as they do now) with elected politicians.

Sinn Féin

An All-Ireland Constitutional Forum (Laid out in their ‘Towards a New Republic’ document, p.8-9).

Composition: Unclear on how individuals will be selected, but basically politicians (from both the Oireachtas and the Northern Ireland Assembly) and leaders from ‘civic society, business, and trade unions’. Members of the general public may be consulted, but as far as I can see, will not be members of the convention.

Scope: Propose constitutional changes.

Powers: Proposed changes would be put to the people (I assume directly) in a referendum.

 

Greens

A Citizens Assembly (laid out in their Better Leadership policy document, p. 2)

Composition: 40 directly elected members elected in one nationwide constituency via PR-STV

Scope: Draw up a new draft constitution.

Powers: The Greens have a radically different approach to the other parties on this, but their proposal in this regard seems the most sensible to me.

They propose that a Citizen Assembly be preceded by a referendum on the establishment and powers of an Irish Citizen Assembly. If the referendum passes, the Assembly will be directly elected (see above) and will have 18 months to draw up a new draft constitution, which the government will be constitutionally obliged to put to before public in a referendum.

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36 thoughts on “Power to the people? A summary of party proposals on Citizen Assemblies.

  1. The way in which we decide on reform is now a hugely important question. Almost without doubt, reform is coming. The big question now is which reforms and who decides. How representative will their choices be of what we all want to see in the future of our state?

    In November, a small movement, Second Republic, started from a post on this site. We’ve grown since then and are actively campaigning to have citizen participation put at the core of decision making on reform.

    We’re running a number of campaigns over the election period. The easiest one to contribute to is our petition, which we will be presenting to the Oireactas when the new Dáil is formed:

    http://www.2nd-republic.ie/petition

    Please put your name to it.

    I would encourage everyone interested in advancing this issue to join our mailing list and to attend one of our local meetings in Dublin, Cork, Limerick or Galway.

    See our site for more details: http://www.2nd-republic.ie

  2. I take all these party proposals for political reform in the face of a general election with a grain of salt .
    The abolition of the Senate will in fact be a sad day for democracy in Ireland , actually not saving much money in the sceme of things.
    If we genuinely want to save money and lead to a recovery over the next few years , my own proposal:

    Propose that the 80000 immigrants here on the Dole, Rent Allowance, Childrens Allowances etc be taken into account in the renegotiation of the Interest on the Bail Out Loan from the EU , thus lowering the interest repayments by approximately a billion a year – in that period , and even now , few Irish emigrants claimed in any EU country ( a few in England – you wouldn’t be paid in Germany! )

    Let’s play even tougher with the EU , let’s tell them that we want the approximate ten billions we have paid out to their citizens , all of them , with no quid pro quo, in Welfare , and in the provision of health, welfare , education , to be taken into account and set against the interest payable on their loan.

    This would be an election winner nationwide with the voters , and rightly so as taxpayers who paid out all those billions to EU citizens – important to state that all immigrants are welcome as ever but that our well has run dry.

    This proposal executed would enable us to pay a revised interest amount , even on the current rate , and thus ensure no default , and that should satisfy the EU.

    It would also hasten the Recovery !

    • I can’t see that working, Michael, on a number of levels. As citizens of the EU we have certain rights within all EU member states. I live in Holland and avail of those rights, EU citizens from other member states living in Ireland do so too.

      I don’t see how anyone could frame our current predicament as having anything to do with immigrants from other EU countries, who obey the same laws and pay the same taxes as Irish citizens.

  3. Matt,
    Glad that you have not self-indulged by purporting to ‘rate’ the proposals.
    The almost universal support for citizens assemblies amongst the political scientist contributors to this site and the simultaneous exercise in ‘expert rating’ of reform proposals is somewhat benusing.

      • Well, I think it’s complicated. Obviously quantifying/rating proposals is difficult, but we felt that it was a good way to communicate the broad outlines of what the parties are proposing.

        There is a bit of an implicit rating in my post – I think Labour’s plan for the make-up of their proposed Constitutional Convention is very poor, for example.

  4. Matthew, no immigrants are blamed!
    I sometimes think that we deserve the awful position that we are in as we seem to have no savvy at all.
    Holland is not indicated, but the wehole of Eastern Europe is!
    You can’t blame those people flying in here for the ole, child benefits etc –
    but you can blame the Irish government for setting it all up , esp Mary Harney as Minister for Employment etc
    You simply have to have a quid pro quo established in your dealings with anybody , and a country has to ensure this on behalf of itself and its taxpayers now bearing a Godawful brunt and facing worse with the country and people now bankrupt .
    Surely we should at least put all this forward to the EU ( they never insisted on 10 billions being paid out by us, that was our own government’s choice – can we continue to pay a billion a year?
    Even taking the CAP and structural funds into account we are net losers in the EU.

    Do we therefore want to continue paying out , it is up to us and nobody else, Germany and Austria opted out of paying anything in this manner by placing a 7-year-stay , as was and is allowed by the EU.

    But if you and every other citizen of Ireland want to pay out these billions free gratis , fair enough!

    Any government can only do what you want 🙂

  5. These kinds of assemblies are an invitation to mob-rule. The kinds of knee-jerk reactions that arise from such fora can open the door to totalitarianism.

    It was through such mechanisms that Caesar overthrew the Roman Republic (such as it was).

    Even where the power is merely consultative, such an assembly could put immediate and overwhelming pressure on a government to legislate for the object of mobbish passion in a given moment. That kind of legislation is almost always poorly considered.

    Such an assembly is not so much a reform as an overthrow of our current form of government.

    It seems to me that the debate up to now has focussed on reducing the power of government.

    I am not convinced that this is either necessary or useful.

    After all, we elect a government to give it a mandate to run the country. This fundamentally involves the use of power, which is through our constitution we delegate to a government with a mandate the authority to use this power.

    The use of this power is already delimited by Constitution and Statute. Increasing the power of the opposition seems to me to be simply a recipe for creating a government incapable of acting.

    How would this improve our position?

    • Well, the idea is that in a Republic, ultimately, you have to trust your fellow citizens to behave responsibly.

      For me the big advantage of the Citizen Assembly idea is that it takes crucial agenda setting power out of the hands of parties (who typically stand to gain or lose from certain institutional arrangements).

      Bear in mind that the constitution will not be adopted if it fails to win a majority in a referendum.

      On reducing the power of government, this is a constant source of philosophical contention in the design of any political system. To what extent should a majority be constrained in its decisions?

      There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer to that question, all we can say is that Ireland currently has a highly centralised power structure, relative to most other established democracies. It should be up to the people to decide whether that should continue or not.

      • Republic is derived from Res Publica, which can be loosely translated as Rule by the People. There is no particular implication in Republicanism that one should trust one’s fellow citizens to behave responsibly.

        That idea is something tacked onto Republicanism through some other separate set of ideals, probably related to humanism in some respects.

        From my point of view, it is all very well to trust one’s fellow citizens, but we should put structures in place that limit the potential for harm.

        A Citizen’s Assembly is far more likely to impose the tyranny of the majority that our current structure.

        This is, after all, the hallmark of mob-rule.

  6. @Matt,

    Many thanks for this. Unfortunately it appears that the various factions are intent on using CAs as another tactic in their grand ‘kick it all into the long grass’ strategy and on avoiding a focus on the acquisition, retention and exercise of political power. Only, FF, amazingly, seems to have any interest in reform of the Oireachtas and of government membership.

    The focus needs to on the state and its institutions building on the ‘Mapping the State’ work of Niamh Hardiman and her colleagues. We don’t seem to realise it but we are living in a polity that is almost identical to the late mediaeval principalities examined by Machiavelli. The only difference is that we have an opportunity every 4-5 years to elect tribunes of the people who elect the Prince and his Council. But the almost absolute powers exercised by the Prince and his Council often allow him to win successive elections – and competiting princes are unmanned and are forced to sing, badly, from the same hymnsheet.

    And, similar to these kingdoms and principalities, we have the Lords Spiritual and Temporal who seek to bend the Prince and his Council to their will. The power of the Lords Spiritual (enforcing the laws and dictates of a foreign autocracy) is in decline, but the powers of the Lords Temporal have increased as they have multiplied. We have the Lords of Travail (the unions), the Lords Mercantile (IBEC), the Lords Mandarin and the Lords of Quangoland. All exercise unaccountable power and do so by dealing directly with the Prince and his Council and by ignoring the tribunes of the people.

    In 1649 the English beheaded a king to ensure the supremacy of parliament over the sovereign. 140 years later the French did the same. Both systems of governance have since succumbed to increasing executive dominance, but we in Ireland have tolerated the most extreme executive dominance with an elected dictatorship in parliament deferring to the whims of the unelected and unaccountable barons and lords.

    Even Machiavelli would have scratched his head. Until we tackle this we’re at nothing and CAs, I fear, are a distraction.

    • Just a smidgeon overstated.

      In fact, the Dail can dissolve the government any time, by voting no confidence. In fact, this is why we are having an election next week.

      Still I’ve not seen a reason to put further limits on the power of government.

      In my view, it is a red-herring. The real issues are:

      1. A moribund public service
      2. A (until recently) politically apathetic public
      3. Political candidates of questionable ability

      These issues will not be addressed by the suggestions above (although number 2 might, but not in a good way).

      • The Taoiseach seeks the President’s consent to dssolve the Dail when (a)this is required to satisfy the constitutional limit of the life of a Dail, (b) he/she sees an oppotunity to be returned to office some time before this limit becomes binding or (c) he/she is no longer able to command a majority in the Dail to enact the legislation required to continue governing.

        While a taoiseach is able to retain a majority in the Dail (by whip, fear or gift) s/he may do as s/he wishes subject to any constitutional constraints. This is the situation that pertains most of the time.

        But you seem determined to ignore the malign effects of this.

    • The Taoiseach’s ability to remain in power is limited to retaining the vote of a majority in the Dail. The moment he slips into a minority his or her days are numbered.

      This is one of the precautions within the system which prevents totalitarianism.

      What I don’t understand about this debate is this:

      A government, by definition, has to wield power in order to govern.

      It is implied by all the argument that it is a bad thing that a government should wield power. That more and more limits should be imposed on governments to limit the wielding of power.

      What we are in danger of producing is a structure which will permanently cripple government.

      This makes no sense to me.

      For the record, i think our current system is flawed, but I think it better than those proposed.

      The issues, for me, go back to:

      1. Politically disengaged and disinterested public

      2. Lack of accountability in public services.

      3. Lack of real management practices in the public. services.

      It is in these areas that effort should be expended to achieve proper reform and implement accountability..

  7. The proposed abolition of the Senate is a panicky ill-considered knee-jerk reaction that could cost the country the services of professionals and experts and leave the country at the mercy of farmer and publican TDs in the Dail.

    • I agree that abolition of the Senate is a panicky and ill-considered reaction.

      It is typical of the kind of result we can expect from a citizen’s assembly.

      Mob rule is not a recipe for stable government.

      Just look at the hysteria of the last few years for an example of how the agenda of the proposed citizen’s forum will be set.

      Such fora are a breeding ground for demogogues.

      • Didn’t the political parties (apart from the Greens) come up with the idea of abolishing the Senate? As I recall it was Enda Kenny who led the charge on that issue.

        How can you use it as an example of the perils of ‘mob rule’?

  8. There have been people calling for the abolition of the senate over the last few years, but it only became a serious issue when the mob siezed on it during the last year. Somehow blaming the horrible experience we’re all having on the existence of the Senate. It has taken on an almost fetishistic aspect – if we kill the senate, everything will be ok.

    Enda Kenny siezed on this as a way of identifying himself with the desire of the mob. It is a distinct example of how politicians cannot help themselves but to use such mobbish responses to further their political position. (I don’t judge Enda Kenny for doing this – it is a natural response to identify with the electorate).

    A similar but more immediately serious example is how George Bush managed to convince the American people that Saddam Hussein was in league with Al Qaeda (which he certainly wasn’t), and both he and Blair pretended there were WMDs in theatre that could attack Britain at 45 minutes notice in order to gain a groundswell of mobbish support for the (arguably illegal) invasion of Iraq.

    Look at the startling response of people in the UK to the death of Diana.

    These kind of media driven theatrics produce an immediate and emotional response in the people.

    Irish people are no less prone to these responses than anyone else.

    If that emotional response has a method of producing immediate legislation, then we are undermining democracy in this country.

    One of the advantages of our current system is that it reduces the possibility of these emotional responses from having a negative impact on our polity.

    • Yes – but a CA isn’t a flash poll in the papers. Members get to consult with policy experts, they consider and deliberate over the course of 12-18 months before they come to their conclusions.

  9. If the CA isn’t open to ALL people to be members, then it is a group selected by the public to represent their aspirations in the political domain.

    In what way does this not become a rival government?

    • A CA has a seperate and sepcific mandate from the government: to draw up proposals for political/constitutional reform to be put before the people in a referedum. They simply decide the propoals that will be voted on. They don’t have any executive powers whatsoever, so they do not constitute a rival government.

      • So it isn’t so much a citizens assembly, as a parallel civil service?

        If the mandate comes from the government, what is the difference?

        If they decide on what is to be put to the vote, then they are already taking on governmental prerogatives.

        I’m not sure where you’re drawing the line here.

  10. In abolishing the Senate we would be abolishing the one serious intellectual input we have into Parliament and the governance of the nation. We would be abolishing a valuable control mechanism that would be irreplaceable.
    The Senate has a unique consultative and advisory role in legislation that would probably devolve to Civil Service parliamentary draftsmen in the vacuum that would then exist.
    The Senate too has always played an important role in the protection of the people from undesirable legislation.

    The Citizens Assembly , on the other hand, could degenerate into a Robespierrian Council of the Mob.

  11. @Cormac MacGowan
    “Such an assembly is not so much a reform as an overthrow of our current form of government.”

    At best, a Citizens’ Assembly will be a forum in which to consider options and make recommendations, including the possibility of minority ‘report’. There are a number of constraints on a Citizens’ Assembly
    1) Any recommendations can only be implemented by the current powers-that-be ie. incumbents;
    2) Funding the Citizens’ Assembly is unclear. Most seem to demand that this be done by the Government ie. the powers-that-be, incumbents.

    This is very far from the mob-rule that you claim.

    “It seems to me that the debate up to now has focused on reducing the power of government. I am not convinced that this is either necessary or useful.”

    Opinion polls show that
    1)”In a year of political and economic turmoil, trust in government fell by 11 percentage points since 2009 in, to an all time low of 20% in 2011. This compares to a global average of 52%, according to the latest findings of the annual Edelman Trust Barometer which is conducted in 23 countries. Ireland is now the least trusting of government out of all the EU member states surveyed.”
    http://www.edelman.ie/index.php/insights/trust-barometer/

    2)most people Irish eg. Eurobarometer poll found that more than 70 per cent of us in the Republic of Ireland agreed that
    · Our country needs reforms to face the future;
    · Reforms that benefit future generations should be pursued even if that means some sacrifices for the present generation.
    This poll is part of an EU-wide poll in which the results for those polled in each member state are issued along with the total poll results. Eurobarometer 73 First Results August 2010
    http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb73/eb73_fact_ie_en.pdf

    IMO, the response of most people to our current crisis (the worst of the three since the Second World War II)is to seek competence, accountability and balance in the exercise of the power of government – not to simply reduce it.

    “After all, we elect a government to give it a mandate to run the country. This fundamentally involves the use of power, which is through our constitution we delegate to a government with a mandate the authority to use this power.”

    Look at what the powers-that-be say about their stewartship since we joined the €uro

    “The National Economic and Social Council (NESC) has clearly admitted how the political,
    administrative and financial elites failed over the past 10 years.
    – In the past decade, Ireland’s approach to fiscal policy, prices, costs and financial
    regulation were not sufficiently adapted to the disciplines of a single currency. -”
    (Source: Press Release from National Economic and Social Council (NESC) on a report “The Euro: an Irish
    Perspective” 17th August 2010. NESC is 30-person social partnership body made up of representatives of
    government, business, trade unions, agriculture, community and environment. The Secretary General
    of the Government chairs NESC. Among the seven Government nominees are the Secretaries-General
    of five Government Departments.
    http://www.nesc.ie/dynamic/docs/The%20euro%20MEDIA%20RELEASE%20from%20NESC.pdf)

    This failure to manage our economic and social development in accordance with the responsibilities
    of being €urozone members is simply shocking, given that in 1999, the year we joined the €uro, the
    International Monetary Fund (IMF) raised this very issue
    “If the risks of overheating and a subsequent hard landing to a more sustainable
    rate of growth is a concern, what policy actions can be taken in the context of
    monetary union?”
    (Source. IMF Ireland Staff Country Report No. 99/87. August 1999 http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/1999/cr9987.pdf)

    If we want to change the results, we have to change the approach. Given the scale of the current failure and the resultant crisis, changing the results to change the approach means far more than a simple change of government or even a succession of such changes. Note that we tried this in response to the 1970s oil crisis, following which we did not re-elect an outgoing government between 1969 and 2002 – a period of 33 years.

    The incumbent powers-that-be did not get the message.

    My question to you is how would leaving the existing structures in place improve the position?

    IMO, we need to design, implement and use a series of checks and balances to limit the scope for excess by the powerful, whether they be public or private, elected or appointed in order to ;
    · ensure competence and moderation in government
    and
    · overcome inertia at government level, both national and local;
    so that our constitution is a framework for a free government that limits, restrains and allows for the
    exercise of political power, which we as citizens of a Republic own.
    We need to ensure that our way of governing ourselves has both
    · the means to be successful for the common good with increased democratic accountability
    and
    · the capacity and of adapting to the changes that constantly descend upon it.

    If you want more of my views, you might to look at p. 56 and following in http://www.dcba.ie/static/doclib/Towards_a_Second_Republic.pdf

    • I am sure that experts from several fields will be looking closely at the output of a citizen assembly. Certainly the political science community has a public obligation in this regard. Scoring is just an effort to provide a comprehensible and objective evaluation for public consultation. As I said in the post, I would advise every voter to read these documents for themselves, and to think carefully about the relative merits of the proposals. The only sad thing is that it has taken such a calamitous set of circumstances for us, as a self governing people, to seek to improve the structure of our government.

      • Well they have certainly handed out a party political prize in the middle of a general election campaign.
        They also, they been the experts of political reform, dont trust the politicians so they advocate citizen assemblies, but they dont trust the citizens either and will censor what they say. BEginning to look as if this political reform programme is not rooted in democracy!

  12. the country has been plunged into ruin by unregulated banking, and still not a bank window in the length and breadth of the island has been broken. to fret about the threat of mob rule, in such a context, is to be wildly out of touch with the current reality.

    the throwing of dead cats, tarring and feathering, boycotting, lynching, exiling, and dumping off king’s bridge at low tide should be taught as fas courses to the unemployed, until the mob is able once more to play its proper role in national life.

    in a democracy, loss of respect for politicians amounts to a loss of self respect – a loss of confidence in our own choices. clear thinking is in less danger from mob emotions, than it is from spin, dissimulations, manipulations, media distortions, public relations, obfuscations, procrastinations, the setting up of tribunals, and the wearing of ties of a colour that are presumed to induce good feelings in the minds of sheeplike television viewers.

    at this election, the best thing that could happen is that one political party is utterly screwed. all parties will then know who rules democratic ireland – we do.

    the people, right or wrong. sometimes known as ‘the mob.’

  13. A one-third cut across the board in social welfare , a one -third cut across the board in public service salaries- and we could tell the IMF and the EU to Fook Off with their Bail-Out Money and still survive !
    So do the Irish People really want to be Independent and Sovereign ?

  14. Our patriots starved on hunger strike and went out and died for Independence and Sovereignty , our politicians and leaders if they were any good, should take a two-thirds cut in their salaries and expenses right now – and tell our EU and IMF Masters, especially Ollie Rehn , to fook off with themselves too.
    Personally I’m game for a little personal slimming for the Cause , so are many more of us too 🙂

    We’d be one of the richest and most successful countries in the world in ten years time 🙂

  15. One third cut in Social Welfare and Public Service Pay and –
    Our patriots starved on hunger strike and went out and died for Independence and Sovereignty , our politicians and leaders if they were any good, should take a two-thirds cut in their salaries and expenses right now – and tell our EU and IMF Masters, especially Ollie Rehn , to fook off with themselves too.
    Personally I’m game for a little personal slimming for the Cause , so are many more of us too

    We’d be one of the richest and most successful countries in the world in ten years time

    Let’s start the ‘ Slim for Ireland ‘ Health Party and kick out FG and Labour and SF as well as Fianna Fail ! We’d be healthier and live longer too. Give up the drink , give up the fags , for yourself and for Ireland .

    God save Ireland !

  16. @Steve & vincent maybe you guys could suggest a better way to contribute to the debate on political reform? Perhaps you have a system that allows you to provide a meaningful and comprehensive summary of the positions over all of the major reform dimensions being adopted by the major parties that is 1,000 times better than the reformcard approach?

    If so, could you please read in detail all of the parties’ constantly evolving reform policy platforms and then use your system to describe them? Send your effort to me at matthewtwall@gmail.com and I will happily post it here.

    If not, could you maybe chill out and recognise that doing so involved a lot of free work on all of our parts, and was done only to help non-specialists process all of the complex policies being proposed by the parties, and to make an informed choice on the issue?

    • Matthew,
      I appreciate the work that has been done and the intention behind it. One cannot help thinking, however, that it has become a little unstuck. It is beginning to look like the political reform experts were witnessing the economic experts getting the upper hand and are now vying for position in some future technocracy.

      • Thanks Vincent, and I appreciate that you are only asking that most important of questions: who guards the guardians? When any group sets itself up in a political role, that’s a great question to ask of them.

        The role of political science in a process of political reform is certainly a topic that has consumed my thoughts of late. Ultimately, I think that it should involve presenting and explaining choices that we can make about how our political system works.

        I think that it is important that we try to balance honesty about the complexity of the topics involved with a presentational style that doesn’t just confuse people from other walks of life. Ultimately, we should aim to find, summarize, and present information that will help the Irish people to improve our political system.

        The rules, institutions, and political culture that we have are ours to fix, should we choose to do so. I don’t think that we can go on as we have. Surely what the crises of the last 2 years have shown is that our political system is dysfunctional in many ways? When something is no longer working, you have to try to fix it.

        Personally, all I want to do is to help make sure that whatever choices we make, we do so with our eyes wide open.

        In terms of recommending certain actions or outcomes, I don’t think that my colleagues or I wish to censor any voice in the debate. I think all of us can accept that the topic is complex enough to admit multiple points of view. However, as a professional, you have to be able to make a judgement based on your knowledge and expertise. Sometimes the recommendation just follows from common sense, as my negative evaluation of Labour’s 30:30:30 system did.

        None of us is recommending that we be put in charge of re-writing the constitution. However we do wish to contribute our expertise and ideas to public life in Ireland, and will try to continue to do so.

  17. All reforms are possible providing they do not cost anything. That sentence will warm the cockles of Enda Kenny’s heart.
    Perhaps the most urgent reform is in the field of local government where county councils still harbour petty officials in dimlit cobwebbed rooms still acting like bureaucratic petty tyrants dealing with the Great Unwashed.
    But I can see all these reforms lovingly proferred by academics in particular suffer the fate of being stifled by an entire series of ad hoc committees , the lecturers proposing them become professors old and grey before their proposals ever emerge into the clear light of day again.
    (Professors possessing more wisdom than to dare expect serious consideration of any such wonderful plans that look too good to be true)

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