The first 100 days

By Jane Suiter

The Government is now 100 days in office, a date by which it stated it would have achieved significant reforms. Eyes have of course  been on the economy but what is its record in political reform?

The Programme for Government promised reform in a number of area including parliamentary reform, a broader constitutional review and measures to reduce executive dominance/

Specifically it promised to put a number of issues to referendum and some of these have now been promised later this year or next year. But a few remain outstanding

• A referendum to protect the right of citizens to communicate in confidence with public representatives.

• A referendum to amend the Constitution to ensure that children’s rights are

Strengthened, along the lines recommended by the All-Party Oireachtas committee.

 

We are also still awaiting the Constitutional Convention to consider comprehensive constitutional reform, with a brief to consider, as a whole or in sub-groups, and report within 12 months on the following:

• Review of our Dáil electoral system.

• Reducing the presidential term to 5 years and aligning it with the local and European elections

• Provision for same-sex marriage.

• Amending the clause on women in the home and encourage greater participation of women in public life.

• Removing blasphemy from the Constitution

• Possible reduction of the voting age.

 

The Programme for Government also explicitly states that “We will ensure our Government is seen to be held to account”.

.

In this regard it promised among other items to introduce

• A role for the Ceann Comhairle in deciding whether a Minister has failed to provide reasonable information in response to a question.

 

• A radical extension of the parliamentary question system,

• A new procedure for answering oral questions by state bodies.

 

• amend Dáil standing orders to ensure that replies to written questions are furnished

Within a specified number of days, even during Dáil recess.

 

The PfG also argued that Government is too centralised and unaccountable. “We believe that there must also be a real shift in power from the State to the citizen.” here it promised to

• legislate on the issue of cabinet confidentiality.

• legislate to restore the Freedom of Information Act and extend its remit to other public bodies

• introduce Whistleblowers legislation.

• introduce spending limits for all elections, including Presidential elections and

Constitutional referendums, including for a period in advance of scheduled Local, European,

General and Presidential Elections.

• Significantly reduce the limits on political donations to political parties and candidates

• introduce the necessary legal and constitutional provisions to ban corporate donations to

political parties.

• amend the Official Secrets Act

• introduce a statutory register of lobbyists, and rules concerning the practice of lobbying.

• establish an Electoral Commission to subsume the functions of existing bodies and the Department of the Environment.

• amend the rules to ensure that no senior public servant (including political appointees) or

Minister can work in the private sector in any area involving a potential conflict of interest with their former area of public employment, until at least two years have elapsed after they have left the public service.

• Restrictions on the nature and extent of evidence by civil servants to Oireachtas committees will be scrapped and replaced with new guidelines for civil servants that reflect the reality of the authority delegated to them and their personal accountability for the way in which it is exercised.

• make good corporate governance the law, not an optional extra, and enact legislation to

provide for binding code of practice for corporate governance, which will be obligatory for

companies wishing to be listed on Irish stock exchange.

• end the heavy dependence on a very limited pool of extremely expensive private

solicitors firms providing legal services to the State and agencies

 

To paraphrase, much done, far more to do?

 

 

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5 thoughts on “The first 100 days

  1. It’s great that you are keeping the pressure on to get these reforms achieved. They are what I expect from this government – it is the mandate they have.

  2. The better paraphrase would be “a lot promised, nearly all left to do”

    So far nothing has been implemented which represents a piece of substantive reform. No amount of press conferences can cover this up.

    Hopefully the next 100 days will involve fewer briefings about reform and some concrete action.

  3. There is hardly anything in the list Jane sets out which, if implemented would allow the Oireachtas to apply effective scrutiny of, or exercise restrainton, government.

    People are being totally naive if they believe this government – or, indeed, any government – will willingly introduce reforms that might curtail its exercise of excessive executive dominance in any meaningful way.

    This involves the acquisition, retention and exercise of power. It will require a struggle to wrest any of this power from the hands of those who hold it – or to restrain its exercise.

    Going ‘Please, Mr. Government, you promised you’d do this. It would be ever so good of you if you would’ will receive the contempt it deserves. Those who exercise power only understand the exercise of countervailing and opposing – or even overwhelming – power.

    It makes one weep when one witnesses the courage of ordinary civilians in Syria demanding accountable governmant while our public representatives sit on their backsides and claim their unvouched expenses.

  4. Have there been any real reforms – there have been changes but little real reform and while no one can seriously think within 100 days the government would have tackled, or even begun to, the scale of problems it inherited.

    However, there are smaller issues it could quite easily have reformed.

    It is true a law cannt ban a person donating to a party then why hasn’t the threshold for donations been set at zero.

    Where is the saving when the former garda driver is allowed retire, receive a pension, be remployed as a civilian driver and receive a salary with the salary and pension paid for by the taxpayer and the new car bought by them minister ‘out of their own pocket’ actually paid for from the expenses they claim.

    Why are receipts not published for expenses?

    Why do elected reps not have to publish audited accounts of how they funded their election fundings. Why hasn’t FG published the audited accounts it said would be published in 2010 – it’s not half way through 2011.

    Where is the local government reform?

    Where are the line by line audited of every single cent every single unit of government spends?

    No one for a moment puts Kenny into the same category as Clowen and Ahern but I wouldn’t imagine it will take much for the public to turn on him so he needs to set people’s expectations very carefully and make sure he lives up to the trust placed in him because there’s no rule saying just because he had what it took to get FG back into office, that he is the man to weild that office or keep it there.

    His meanly mouth effort on the Magdeline Laundries victims doesn’t bode well for Kenny having the guts to make decisions that are right. He tried to differentiate between the different methods used for sending woman to such places as if that made any difference. Perhaps its an issue a rural catholic is mentally unable to face up to and it will take a Jewish justice minister to finally get these woman justice.

    So, 100 days, he’s has met the standards expected but he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire – yet. This time next year we’ll have a far better idea.

  5. Sure isnt the party of political reform as per “reformcard” in government and they have appointed F. MacChonghail, the democratically elected chairman of the mass movement of citizens for democracy known as “wethecitizens” to the Seanad? What more is needed?

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