Posted by David Farrell (January 14, 2012)
Two areas greatly in need for reform are funding of politics and the operation of the Dáil – both in the news today (see here and here). In fairness to the government, some move has been made on both agendas (more generally, see here): legislation has been brought in relating to donations to political parties; and there have been changes to how the Dáil operates including the introduction of Friday sittings.
But there is a lot more to do, a lot of which has been promised the Programme for Government but not yet dealt with.
- The government promised to end the scandal of unvouched expenses. There is much more to this than the issue currently in the news relating to unvouched ‘leaders’ expenses’ to independent TDs and Senators. Each and every TD and Senator has the right to take their parliamentary expenses as unvouched (meaning that they don’t have to provide receipts or prove that the monies were spent on the purposes for which they should), and many take this option.
- The government has yet to ban corporate donations.
And there are changes not referred to in the Programme for Government that actually would be well worth considering, notably:
- Why can’t the Dáil meet on a regular 9-5, Monday-Friday (or Monday-Thursday) basis? As reported in the public accounts committee, this could save the public exchequer a lot of money (on over time payments to staff). It would also be more family friendly (one of the factors in our low numbers of women TDs). And it would help to reduce the parish-pump focus of our politicians, because they would have less time in their constituencies.
The reform agenda of this government is undoubtedly moving forward, but at snail’s pace. As we approach the end of its first year in government, now is as good a time as any for it to step up a gear.