Political reform proposals in the Programme for Government (update)

progA (still very preliminary) reaction to the Programme for Government proposal that was launched this afternoon (available here). There is a lot of food for thought here. A lot of interesting proposals – at least on paper – and also some daft ones. Certainly a lot to chew over.

A fair bit of things that we’d have expected including:

  • On Dail reform: backing for the ongoing reform process including a proposed new budget office; more consultation on the annual budgetary process; recommendations that TDs should sit on just one committee; making guillotines very difficult to implement
  • Prioritise the implementation of the Manning working group proposals on Seanad reform
  • Renewed commitment to extending freedom of information
  • A new judicial appointments commission
  • Establish the electoral commission and give it specified functions

Some other interesting proposals:

  • On Dail reform: a proposed new Parliamentary Investigations Unit; establishing the principle of ‘good faith and no surprises’ including greater sharing of information with the Dail; interesting recommendation that the Ceann Comhairle should chair the new business committee
  • Elected mayors; and devolution of power to local authorities; establishing town and borough councils

Proposed (in some cases more definite than others) referendums:

  • A re-run of the Oireachtas enquiries referendum
  • Constitutional recognition of the office of the Ceann Comhairle
  • Women in the home
  • Blasphemy
  • Universal Patent Court

A proposal for a citizens’ assembly to consider:

  • The Eighth amendment
  • Fixed term parliaments
  • How referendums are held (e.g. whether there should be ‘super referendum days’)
  • And other issues that may not require constitutional reform (e.g, how to deal with an ageing population)

And then some daft proposals:

  • To examine how party funding could be extended to ‘political groups who stood on a common policy platform in the last general election’. Exactly how would that little ditty be policed?
  • Relaxing party whips. Actually that is not a matter for Dail reform; it would require the parties to each implement changes to their own rules of procedure.

Apart from the daft stuff, and some obvious gaps (e.g. why are so many of the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention ignored; why not even a reference to reviewing outstanding items?; what happened to reducing the voting age to 16?) there is a lot to look forward to here. But — as ever — the devil will be in the detail….

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