How should candidates for the position of Ceann Comhairle be nominated?

More hints are emerging about the government’s intentions relating to the election of the next Ceann Comhairle.  As reported in a recent post, the government is about to propose a change to Dáil standing orders so that the Ceann Comhairle of the next Dáil will be elected by a secret ballot of all members.  As a number of us have argued for some time, this is an important first step towards making future governments more accountable to the Dáil. (My colleagues and I will be setting out more detailed proposals on Dáil reform this coming Wednesday morning.)

But in order to make this reform meaningful careful thought also needs to be given to the nomination procedure, and here — unfortunately — the reports of government intentions are not promising.  According to a report in last Saturday’s Irish Times, candidates for the position of Ceann Comhairle will need the support of at least seven TDs.  The problem with this procedure is that it risks keeping the position of Ceann Comhairle tightly under the control of the established parties.

Two alternative nomination procedures that the government might consider are:

  • Allowing any TD to nominate themselves (as practiced in Canada), or
  • Requiring nominees to have cross-party support (e.g. in the British House of Commons candidates for Speaker must be nominated by MPs from at least three political parties).

The British system has a lot of merit in ensuring that that candidates for the position of Ceann Comhairle attract cross-party support and this is certainly worth considering for the Dáil.

When the Dáil debates the proposed standing order changes for electing the next Ceann Comhairle, let’s hope that the nomination procedure is not over-looked.

 

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9 thoughts on “How should candidates for the position of Ceann Comhairle be nominated?

  1. Candidates in Canada don’t nominate themselves. All members are assumed to be candidates to be considered by their colleagues and so will have their names on the (secret) ballot. MPs can ask to have their names taken off the ballot if they do not want to be considered. What is important is the assumption that all are eligible and it requires a deliberate act to opt out – not in – to the election.

  2. Well done to Prof. Farrell and his colleagues for setting up http://www.smaointe.org.

    I rrealise I’ll probably be accused of being excessively pessimistic and cynical, but I have grave doubts that the very sensible proposals being advanced on this new website will cut cut any ice with the power-addicted and intellectually challenged denizens of Leinster House. In addition, similar to the apparent continuing preference of UK voters for FPTP, which, in most instances, results in a single party majority government, it appears that a majority of Irish voters are not enthused by changes to the process of democratic governance that would unambiguously increase the imposition of scrutiny, restraint and accountability on the frequent multi-party governments that emerge from the STV system.

  3. Well done to Prof. Farrell and his colleagues for setting up http://www.smaointe.org.

    I rrealise I’ll probably be accused of being excessively pessimistic and cynical, but I have grave doubts that the very sensible proposals being advanced on this new website will cut cut any ice with the power-addicted and intellectually challenged denizens of Leinster House. In addition, similar to the apparent continuing preference of UK voters for FPTP, which, in most instances, results in a single party majority government, it appears that a majority of Irish voters are not enthused by changes to the process of democratic governance that would unambiguously increase the imposition of scrutiny, restraint and accountability on the frequent multi-party governments that emerge from the STV system.

  4. If they were serious about reform then anyone who wants to be considered should be allowed put their name forward. Then just have a simply top six candidates from first round and then second round to top three and then simply 50% after that.

    There are only going to be 160 TDs so you’d think they could manage that.

    Of course if they were genuine about reform they’d change the standing orders before the election.

    If we know anything, it is that this is the point in time where a politician will look you square in the eye, hold your hand in both of theirs and lie to your face without batting an eyelid.

    Depressingly all the evidence of the last five years indicates that FG/L operate to the same low standards of FF and have nothing new to offer when it comes to proper reform. None of the others were exactly breaking down the door either. We were told more women would make a difference. We elected more women and look how different they were. Not.

    Sad to say but our TDs are not blessed with intelligence – so the simpler the system the better, while at the same time nothing that means the big three or four can fiddle it.

  5. The organizers of this initiative should definitely be commended! As is clear from its website ( http://www.smaointe.org ), for such parliamentary reforms there’s no need to completely reinvent the wheel; there is no shortage of examples of good practice in chambers around the world (it would be great if we had even some of the usual features of a more well-functioning parliament). Though one might hope such reforms would naturally evolve in a bottom-up fashion from the Dáil floor, in reality it will be Enda Kenny who will call the shots on these (and, by the looks of things, in the next Dáil too). Unfortunately, my strong sense at this stage is that he is deeply comfortable with the Dáil status quo, which he has continually and comfortably sat in for the past 40 years. It’s likely that any reforms in this direction will be as minimal and begrudging as possible (bowing only so far as necessary to electoral pressure). Perhaps, if he’s Taoiseach in the next Dáil, he may eventually start thinking about his “legacy” in this area. I suspect, though, that his innate inclinations towards change/reform of political structures are deeply conservative (that is if he has any great interest in the topic at all). Apologies for being so negative!

    Also thought I’d mention I very different type of political reform initiative that I stumbled across entirely by accident: http://www.reinstate48.ie/ or http://www.r48.ie . This concerns a topic very much after my own heart: citizens initiatives. It’s based around the very simple idea of trying to restore “article 48” of the original Free State constitution, which contained a citizens initiative provision (enough signatures of ordinary citizens could trigger a referendum on a proposal). The website seems to be aimed at the upcoming GE. Voters can sign up to a “Reinstate 48” pledge. There’s a list of candidates signed up also. Worryingly, it’s a bit Green Party dominated, but there are candidates of other affiliations there too. I like the simple streamlined approach (the catchy “reinstate 48” slogan gives a nice historic resonance too, important given the various upcoming centenaries). There’s a really nice short 5 minute video there too by Diarmaid Ferriter giving the historic background to this “article 48” (was a nice coup for this group to get him to do this). A couple of thousand have signed up to the pledge. However, it’s a pity this initiative doesn’t seem to have gotten more momentum behind it so far (the GE isn’t far away now either). I’ve no connection at all with group myself. I see though from the committee list that Donal O’Brolchain from here seems to be involved to some degree. It would be nice to see this initiative get more publicity. Not wishing to poke my nose too far into things 🙂 , perhaps a guest post by someone from this group here might be an idea in that regard (assuming the editors of this website would consent to that or this group would even want to)?

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