The Wrong Referendum?

Interested in how we can make our parliament fit for purpose?  This public discussion on Dáil reform is open to anyone who thinks our Dáil can do more for democracy.

The debate in the run up to the Seanad referendum has not provided sufficient space for debate on wider reform of our parliamentary structures.  Regardless of the outcome of the Seanad referendum the Dáil is the key democratic organ of the state and needs reform.

The democracy group of Claiming our Future wants to promote debate on how Dáil reform can serve an Ireland based on our five core values of equality, environmental sustainability, accountability, participation and inclusion. These values were agreed by over 1,000 people at our event in October 2010. Claiming our Future aims to build support for these values and promote reforms which would make them real (

Venue: Wood Quay Venue, Dublin City Council. Access to the Wood Quay venue is at the junction of Fishamble and Essex Streets OR from Winetavern Street.


Download flyer here

Chair: Anna Visser, Claiming our Future

Speakers: Can do better: Dáil reform for the next 100 years
Muiris MacCarthaigh, Queens University Belfast
Shane Martin, University of Leicester

Discussion: What should be the purpose of the Dáil?, Does the Dáil have sufficient power?, How would you change the Dáil to realise the five values?

One thought on “The Wrong Referendum?

  1. I wish the organisers, speakers, participants and those who attend the very best with this event. It will be interesting to see how many TDs (or of those with aspirations to be TDs) – if any – will attend. With great regret I expect these will be very few. And that is where the problem lies. There is no groundswell of popular demand that TD’s subject governments to effective scrutiny, restraint or accountability. Paradoxically, it appears that many voters are reluctantly content that Ireland has a ‘strong’ government – ‘strong’ in the sense of being under-scrutinised and, for the duration of this Dail, unrestrained and unaccountable – to direct the efforts to reover from the continuing economic crisis, despite the fact that it was under-scrutinised, unrestrained and unaccountable governance that exposed Ireland to the most damaging impacts. The reluctance to demand reform of democratic governance is, perhaps, understandable, when some sensible governance is badly required.

    This reluctant content is evident to varying extents in the other ‘crisis’ countries – Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Cyprus. Only in Italy, with the Five-Star Movement, has there been any attempt to recast the political process. And this, following the closing of ranks by the political classes, under direction from the Italian President, appears to be fizzling out.

    The common thread that links Ireland to these five countries are profound failures of democratic governance. All have experienced their own horrors at various times in the last 100 years and it is clear that their citizens place less reliance than they should – and much less than citizens in other established democracies place – in an effective process of democratic governance. Three times in the last 100 years some citizens of this island who found themselves unwilling or unable to bend the existing, if flawed, process of democratic governance to their will opted for physical force. The legacy is a deep reluctance to allow parliament to resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise between various interest groups, lest those who are unable to get their way resort to physical force. Instead there is an acceptance of ‘strong’ government to prevent this happening or to deal with it effectively if it does.

    Only twice in the last 70 years has the Irish process of democratic governance delivered a major, and badly-needed, shift in national economic policy. Once in the late 1950s and once in the late 1980s – both in response to a ‘lost decade’ that were caused by profound failures of democratic governance. Another shift is needed now in response to this lost decade.

    But this is the last thing the ‘comfortable majority’ wishes to contemplate. And it most certainly has no desire to see the changes in the process of democratic governance that are required to facilitate such a shift in national economic policy. So nothing will happen.

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