end corruption,stroke politics, & incompetent administration

Ireland First

Political Reform – Effective and Efficient Government

Executive Summary

The Irish political system is broken and needs to be fixed. There is a crisis of

competence in government, the Dáil fails to fulfil its most basic functions, the Seanad

is irrelevant, and the electoral system encourages TDs to behave like county

councillors, while county councillors themselves have little control over local

decisions. All this happens in an administrative culture obsessed with secrecy. Taken

together they have delivered poor government which is unimaginative and beholden

to short term electoral considerations. If Ireland is to prevent itself sleep walking into

another crisis in twenty years time we must radically reform the political system to a

design that puts Ireland first. This plan proposes an integrated reform of the political

system ranging from measures to tackle the workings and functioning of government,

both national and local, to radically overhauling the electoral system.

The Oireachtas and Government

One of the main features of the Irish political system is the dominance of the Dáil by

the government. In all parliamentary systems there is some degree of fusion of the

legislature and the executive but in few systems is this as complete as in Ireland. This

results in a system where there are no real checks and balances on the Cabinet.

Ministers make decisions that are not transparent and for which there is little

immediate accountability.

The recommendations here will ensure that government policies are open to more

scrutiny in advance of becoming law, while government will be made more

accountable for its actions and the opposition will be enabled to do a better job

In order to reduce the dominance of the executive the following is proposed:

Non parliamentarians can become ministers

TDs who are appointed as ministers must resign their seats

In general, there are three roles for parliamentarians: to provide a constituency link; to

make policy; and to legislate. Irish TDs only have a significant role in the first

category. In order to rebalance this and encourage TDs to behave as national

legislators the following is proposed:

Ceann Comhairle to be elected by secret ballot

Revise rules to weaken government control of the agenda and make Dáil

debates more relevant

Abolish the Seanad

There are also problems in Irish policy making which lead to policy choices being

made in short term electoral interest often on a whim and based on anecdotal

evidence. In addition, the Opposition has few resources, particularly in policy

research making it difficult of it to properly hold the government to account. To

address this, proposals include:

An Office of the Opposition to level the playing field between government and


The setting up of a Forward Planning Unit to think beyond electoral cycles

The Electoral System

The electoral system of PR-STV is widely blamed for the localist and clientelist focus

of many Irish TDs. There is little evidence that changing to a mixed member system

as advanced by many reformers will make much difference. Alternative reforms could


Keep PR-STV but create non-geographic constituencies

Create an Electoral Commission

Renew Local Government

Irish political culture is particularly centralised and local authorities have little power

and less fiscal control. If national legislators are to be focussed on national work and

policy, it is imperative that local authorities are reorganised and empowered ensuring

that constituents have real representation at a local level. Proposals to achieve this


Reorganise local government on a regional basis

Directly elect mayors in metropolitan areas and regions with strong decision

making powers and expanded functions

Extend the use of town councils

Introduce a local property tax and water charges to give local government

more autonomy

Open Government

The Irish state has what can only be described as a fetish for secrecy. Rather than a

culture of openness the Irish political and civil service elites operate a presumption of

secrecy unless disclosure turns out to be absolutely unavoidable. This secrecy leads

almost invariably to sub optimal policy outcomes, while there is increasing evidence

that open government and transparency is the key to efficient and effective

government. Thus, proposals include:

Repeal the Official Secrets Act

Publish government information on an open data website

Reform Freedom of Information to assume a right to access Establish a

register of lobbyists

Establish a whistleblowers’ charter

Taken together these will offer the Irish people a new political system for a better

politics. These proposals will restore the link between the people and their politicians,

strengthening democracy. It will also lead to a more effective and efficient

government which makes decisions based on evidence. Policy decisions should be

coherent and based on long term integrated planning. National politicians will have a

much greater role in legislation and in policy while local concerns will be addressed

by a strengthened local political system.

Ireland First

Political Reform – Effective and Efficient Government

Ireland’s dysfunctional political system has been the subject of intense scrutiny since

the economic crisis took hold in 2008. The 2011 general election brings Ireland to a

critical moment, with an opportunity to radically reform the structure and dynamics of

its political system. The limitations of the system have been well documented and

there is a public demand for change in politics and political life.

The challenges in the political system range from sclerotic institutions and

dysfunctional administration to a system which is dominated by overwhelming

localist priorities in national politics. In fact, the absolute requirement for reform has

been well documented for decades. Multiple examinations have taken place and

reports on improvement gather dust. The difference in 2011 is a clear public

awareness of the need for reform, combined with an acceptance among the political

parties of the need and demand for such reform from within civil society and the

business community.

The overarching goal of this document is to frame a series of reforms which would

underpin a more effective and efficient political system in Ireland. The figure below

outlines the reform priorities. Crucially, reform must begin at the centre of the

political system, in the government and Oireachtas. A reformed Oireachtas will be

empowered and a trickle effect will occur through the entire system. This will

permeate the manner in which the Government conducts its business and create a

context for local government reform and an examination of the electoral system. This

will be accompanied by an overarching change in the pervasive culture of secrecy at

the heart of politics in Ireland. The fundamental goal of these reform proposals is that

a political and economic crisis of the magnitude of 2008 should never happen again.

Figure One

The basic problem at the centre of politics in Ireland is an opaque approach to

conducting business. Citizens and groups have extraordinary access, by international

standards, to members of parliament and the Government, yet there is a culture of

secrecy. This infuses policy development, decision making, inputs, outputs and

outcomes of the system. Figure Two outlines the problems in each of the reform


Figure Two: The Reform Agenda

Each of the areas outlined above are considered in the subsequent sections. A short

introduction to each area is provided but the focus is on the reforms which could be

implemented to bring about short and long term change within the Irish political


I The Oireachtas and Government of Ireland

A Government That Works

Ireland has a parliamentary democracy, designed around a separation of powers.

Essentially, this means that the parliament makes the laws, the government

implements the laws, and the judiciary should interpret laws. There is considerable

blurring of these guidelines in the Irish case, especially in relation to the different

roles for the Parliament (Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann) and the government.

Particular problems include the power of the government, the weakness of parliament

and the short term and localist nature of Irish politics.

The local nature of politics is reflected in many of the outcomes of the political

system and a particular problem is a focus on short term political outcomes for

electoral gain. Parliament and parliamentarians have a limited role in lawmaking.

Policy is rarely “future proofed” and there is no effective evaluation of policy


One of the main problems with the Irish political system that has been exposed in the

current economic crisis is the dominance of the Dáil by the government. This

executive dominance means that decisions made in secret were not and could not be

scrutinised or subjected to debates that could have improved the proposals.

In reforming the relationship between the executive and the legislature we need to be

careful not to introduce a system that is prone to indecisiveness or deadlock.

Currently, the government can expect that its policies will be implemented and that

policies from the Dáil cannot be foisted upon an unenthusiastic executive. That should

remain. But government policies must be open to more scrutiny in advance of

becoming law, and government must be made more accountable for its actions.

We should have a political system which is vigilant and decisive. Vigilant so that it

can throw out bad ideas and take good ones and make them better. Decisive so that

decisions can be taken in a timely manner. At the moment, the Dáil has neither the

incentive nor the opportunity to scrutinise the government or hold it to account. And

the government, which produces the proposals for the Dáil to consider, is

characterised by a lack of skill, and a similarity of views. How could cabinet expect to

make decisions when it is populated by school teachers and solicitors? Cabinet

government is founded on the idea that there is a debate between people with different

skills and expertise. If all people approach a problem with the same point of view, that

debate adds nothing.

To address these problems the following is proposed.

1. Ministers should not be constituency representatives

Ministers should work full time on their portfolio and not depend on support

in their constituencies for promotion. To facilitate this any nominated minister

who is a TD will have to resign his or her seat. Rather than have messy byelections

at the start of term, each can nominate substitutes (these should be

put on the ballot paper and so be available to voters).

2. Allow non parliamentarians become ministers

This would separate the positions of parliamentarian from those of ministers.

The skills involved in being a TD and a minister are quite distinct but the

current system restricts who can become a minister to a limited number of

people with a specific background. This damages the operation of cabinet as a

forum for uncovering flaws in proposals because all ministers tend to have a

similar background and training and are all frankly focused on re-election. It

will therefore enable Taoisigh to choose from a far wider talent pool when

constructing their cabinet. However, in order to maintain the link with voters a

rule that a majority of the cabinet should have been elected as TDs, and the

Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Finance should be as now required to be

elected TDs.

The size of the cabinet might be reduced to about ten. Groups larger than this

do not work cohesively as decision making bodies. To assist these ministers

there can be a larger number of Ministers of State, who would also be required

to resign their seats if they were TDs but there would be no requirement that

any of them have been elected. It is a requirement of the system that initiatives

come from ministers and to enable the government to be active in a larger

number of areas simultaneously it is important that there are political leaders

to drive policy forward.

These proposals will make it less likely that TDs will see achieving ministerial office

as their ultimate goal and so could lead to a less deferential relationship between the

government and the Dáil.

A Stronger, More Vigilant Dáil

For these executive reforms to work however, they must be accompanied by a radical

restructuring and strengthening of the Dáil to make it a chamber where the Dáil has

the opportunity to scrutinise government policies and hold it to account for policy

failures. TDs must be given a clear and decisive role in parliamentary business. It is

notable how little focus is on the Dáil when major policy decisions are being taken.

For most Irish people it has become irrelevant.

The government’s control of the Dáil also emanates from the Taoiseach’s patronage

appointments in the committee system, the government’s control of Dáil time, its

ability to set the agenda of the Dáil and to avoid questioning in the Dáil. The Dáil also

forces the Taoiseach to spend a great deal of time on procedural matters in the Order

of Business, but TDs cannot question him or his ministers on topical matters. When it

is possible to ask questions, archaic procedures and a Ceann Comhairle who is

effectively appointed by the Taoiseach, and always from the ruling party, allow

ministers to evade questioning.

Furthermore the courts have imposed serious restrictions on the Dáil carrying out its

scrutiny functions in its judgement on the so-called Abbeylara case. The Oireachtas

has shown itself to be afraid of the courts and as a result has abandoned the use of

parliamentary inquiries. The only inquiries into serious policy failures now tend to be

either secret inquiries or full judicial inquiries set up by the government with terms of

reference set by the government. As a result we rely on full judicial inquiries which

take place at great expense, are incredibly slow and are hardly revealing when they

eventually do report.

3. An election of the Ceann Comhairle by secret ballot

The Ceann Comhairle is in a crucial position and one that is paid at the same

rate as a government minister. By electing the Ceann Comhairle by secret

ballot, where a small number of TDs could nominate a candidate, the Dáil

could be choosing someone who could protect its interests. A Ceann

Comhairle elected in this way would owe more loyalty to the members than

the government and if it were combined with other changes in the Standing

Orders should make for a Dáil that is less deferential to the government.

4. A complete revision of Dáil Standing Orders and restrictions on the use of the


This should aim at allowing opposition more control of the agenda and give

government less opportunity to guillotine items. These changes must allow the

government sufficient control of time that it can expect to have its legislation

passed after vigorous debate. Guillotining of items should only be possible

with the agreement of two-thirds of the Dáil. This would mean that it is

reserved for genuinely important emergencies where government can convince

the opposition of its merits.

It must be made easier for TDs to raise issues of topical issues and for TDs to

question ministers and expect to get an answer. The Ceann Comhairle could

be empowered to publically ‘name’ ministers for not answering questions


5. Strengthen the committee system

The committee system must be strengthened in a number of ways to make it

more relevant to policy making and government oversight. It should be given

greater relevance by moving the committee stage up in the legislative process.

If the committee input came at the pre-legislative stage it is more likely that

ministers would accept reasonable suggestions from committees. This would

give parliamentarians a more decisive and role in preparation and drafting of

bills. Committee chairmanships should be elected by the Dáil or the committee

itself so that those leading a committee are more likely to have a genuine

interest in the area.

6. A referendum establishing the right of the Dáil to inquire into certain matters

The Dáil as the sovereign of the people must be allowed to hold all public

bodies and officers to account for their actions regardless of whether it could

impugn their good name or make findings of fact. The right to inquire must be

accompanied by a right to compel witnesses. However it is also important that

the Dáil cannot abuse its privilege. The restrictive decision in the Abbeylara

case was right in that TDs should not be entitled to make judicial-style


The Dáil, through committees, must be allowed to set terms of references for

inquiries and not have these imposed by a Dáil majority. Therefore it should

be possible for a minority to set the terms of a limited number of inquiries

where serious failures are easily established. We would see the strengthened

Ceann Comhairle’s office having a role here.

7. Use Dáil committees to vet and approve senior public appointments

One area where there is virtually no check on government is the appointment

to senior posts in the public service. Though most executive posts are subject

to specific rules, appointments to senior executive and non-executive positions

in many Irish agencies are made without any proper oversight. Senior judicial

appointments, particularly at Supreme Court level, should also be subject to


Strengthening the Opposition

Governments rightly take a lot of flak when things go wrong in a country. It was, after

all, their policies, or lack of them, that presumably caused the problem in the first

place. Equally governments are rarely shy in taking the credit for those times when

policy goes right. But while the government’s job is obviously important, the

opposition also has an important role. It would be ridiculous to apportion the blame

for poor government decisions to the opposition but it is reasonable to say that

Ireland’s opposition parties in Ireland do not do a very good job.

The role of opposition should be threefold – observing, interrogating and proposing


The opposition should tell us what the government is doing, thus reducing its

temptation to be economical with the truth. As well as observe and report, the

opposition should also challenge and question government. It should challenge the

incumbent government, generally making being in government, less comfortable than

it otherwise might be. If the government proposes something, the opposition’s job is

to make sure that poor proposals are exposed and, an embarrassed government

withdraws or amends them (or better still does not propose poor or self-serving

policies in anticipation of being embarrassed). Government should be able to defend

and justify its decisions and the opposition’s job is to make sure that we hear these.

Finally, the opposition is meant to provide an alternative government. So it should

come up with proposals as to what it would do in government and also appear

competent enough to be offer a credible alternative.

There are good reasons why the opposition in Ireland hasn’t fulfilled its role properly.

Some of those relate to the Dáil and the way it operates. But it is also a problem that

there is not a level playing field in the support provided for government and

opposition. Government ministers have a small army of civil servants to research and

back up any proposal they have. Opposition spokespersons are more like 19th century

amateurs relying on friends and favours for support. To level the playing field, from

purely a policy perspective, and boost the input of the opposition in Ireland we have

one major proposal.

8. Set up an Office for the Opposition

A civil service office will be established to support, in policy terms, the main

opposition parties. Each opposition spokesperson would have three to five

civil servants at their disposal and the leader could have five to seven.

By giving over the use of some civil servants to opposition spokespeople they will

ensure that there are greater resources at the disposal of the opposition. As well as

evening up the gap in skills and knowledge between government and opposition it

will mean opposition will have some experience managing a small section and the

leader of the opposition will have his/her skills honed in managing an organisation

which has to oversee the work of a large number of individuals. At a time when

policy issues are increasingly complex and sometimes highly technical the

opportunity to manage such a department and draw on civil service expertise would

increase the professionalism of the opposition enabling it present itself as a credible

alternative government.

It will mean that when a new government takes office, it spends less time finding its

way around the system and will arrive with a more or less workable policy agenda

and a greater familiarity of the civil service system.

By having an Office for the Opposition one increases the effectiveness of the

opposition to oppose without ceding it the right to block. So there can be some checks

and balances on government activity without the destabilising effect that a veto might

have on the government – perhaps leading to deadlock. Moreover, it will also mean

that politics in Ireland will move away from the mantra of opposition for opportition’s


Abolish Seanad Éireann

The reform goals of the first section are to enhance the roles, structures and

procedures of Dáil Éireann. In time, a strong and effective first chamber will emerge.

The culture of politics will become more consensual. Many small states are

unicameral i.e. have one house of parliament. Two houses of parliament are more

commonly associated with geographically large or federal states.

The under-performance of Seanad Éireann and, failure to enact many previous reform

plans have brought the entire parliamentary system into disrepute. There are many

proposals on how the Seanad might be reformed. They include plans to enhance its

role within the existing system, transform the chamber into a body with responsibility

for scrutiny of EU legislation and more recent proposals to establish the Seanad as a

Citizen’s Assembly. Many of the reforms are eminently sensible and worthy but most

begin from the starting point of finding a role for the Seanad. It implies that the

Seanad has little role in the existing structure and this raises the serious question of

whether it is really needed.

The growing distrust of Irish political institutions makes it difficult to persuade the

public on the merits of reforming the second chamber. Consequently, abolition is


Forward Planning

Policy making in Ireland is best described as incrementalist, which suggests that

policy change is achieved slowly and builds on the steps which have been taken

previously. A particular difficulty of this style of policy is that it tends to focus on

short term horizons. As a result of the competitive electoral system, with it localist

incentives and the prevalence of Independent TDs in powerful positions, policy

making is criticised for being overly focused on local outcomes and too closely

attuned to the electoral cycle. In addition, the Irish government operates in a system of

interdependent nations. Policy actions are greatly influenced by developments within

the European Union and globalization has constrained the ability of states to act

without reference to the international environment.

There are growing challenges ahead for governments across the world. These

challenges are not unique to Ireland. Structural change in economies, the physical

environment and populations present challenges which will have to be addressed. For

some countries, these difficulties are imminent while they are emerging on the

horizon for others. Ireland must adapt its policy making process to prepare for the

challenges ahead. Policy must be developed and implemented with full awareness of

the consequences decades ahead. There are a variety of issues on the horizon but

population ageing, climate change, cyber security and pandemics are the subject of

extensive pre-planning internationally. The OECD in its “Future Global Shocks”

series sets out the policy frameworks which need to be implemented.

In many cases, the challenges on the horizon have specific fiscal implications. Policy

makers must be in a position to cost the future fiscal implications of any decisions

taken and they need to be factored into medium and long term budgeting.

Governments must take responsibility for the long term risks associated with future

shock to the society, the economy and the national territory.

9. Forward Planning Unit

Establish a unit within the civil service, attached to the Department of the

Taoiseach which is given responsibility for long term policy planning. The

unit should be staffed independently of normal civil service recruitment and

should primarily include policy experts. The unit should be given

responsibility for delivering evaluation of the long-term costs and outcomes of

each piece of legislation before it goes before the cabinet. Pre consultation

should take place at all stages but a final report on the long-term consequences

should accompany the bill to the full plenary stage. The unit will not be able to

mandate change. Its primary focus will be to future proof policy making. It

will allow TDs to make decisions in a more informed environment and will

constrain the ability of ministers to make ill-judged short term-policy

decisions with long term practical consequences.

Outcome of Reforms

In practice, these reforms will give parliamentarians a much stronger role in the entire

legislative process. It will particularly empower opposition and backbench TDs giving

them an opportunity to bring their experience and expertise to lawmaking from the

start of the process. A better resourced opposition is essential to ensure that TDs are

policy proficient. A long term consequence of this reform will be a change in the

dynamic of politics. As TDs are engaged in the process from the outset, they will have

greater opportunity to invest in lawmaking and this will reduce the confrontational

basis of politics. Partisanship will be minimised and a parliamentary culture will


The short term approach to policy making will diminish and new programmes will be

subject to more extensive scrutiny in advance of implementation. Existing

programmes will also be subject to evaluation and monitoring. This will reduce ad

hoc policy making and should make the resource allocation of government more

transparent. All reports of the Forward Planning Unit would be published in

accordance with the open government guidelines.

II Electoral system - PR-STV

Making PR-STV Work for Ireland

Few if any aspects of the Irish political system receive as much attention as the

electoral system PR-STV. It makes some sense to be concerned with the electoral

system. It is one of the most prominent of the political institutions and it frames how

citizens make choices for candidates, parties and policies. Many eminent people

complain that the electoral system causes candidates and TDs to compete with each

other to provide local services.

PR-STV as operated in Ireland and the resulting intra party competition in multi

member districts is widely blamed for the localist nature of much Irish politics and

Irish politicians. A move to single member constituencies or towards the German

mixed member system is commonly touted as an answer to this problem.

However, there is no such thing as an ideal electoral system; each tends more or less

towards proportionality, voter choice and incentives towards clientelism. In addition

the political culture is by no means solely determined by the rules of the electoral

system, in many ways the functioning of any electoral system is reflective of the

history, values and culture in which it operates. Thus the electoral system is only a

component of the overall system and changing it is not the silver bullet its detractors

sometimes claim.

Indeed many MPs in list systems and even in single member districts behave in a

similar way to TDs in terms of an emphasis on constituency service, while MPs in

Malta, the only other country which utilises PR-STV for elections to the lower house,

do not concentrate on constituency service to the same extent. The narrow

constituency focus of TDs in Ireland in fact only dates from the early 1960s. There is

scant evidence that a move towards a mixed members system would result in the

election of two different types of MP.

Issues with the Electoral System

The logic of the argument against PR-STV is that because candidates from the same

party compete against each other and cannot compete on policy, they must compete

on the delivery of local services.

Of course there is nothing to stop candidates competing or voters judging candidates

on other areas, such as the contribution to national debate or level of policy expertise.

One of the reasons voters might demand TDs to intervene on their behalf is because

the provision of services is poor. TDs are given privileged access to the Department

of Social Protection or the Passport Office for instance, so it is no surprise that voters

use it. If we wish to reduce demand for the supply of services through TDs, it is

urgent that we improve our public services. Most particularly, service provision by

local authorities needs to be significantly enhanced.

The critics of PR-STV complain that it means those people who can become ministers

are always looking over their shoulders to their seats. Of course they fail to

understand that there is no reason why ministers must be TDs and a simpler way of

solving this problem is to allow ministers who are not parliamentarians.

Those in favour of abandoning the system also fail to realise that other systems

produce MPs who spend a great deal of time on local issues and constituency service.

The US system which has single seat constituencies yet, produces representatives who

are if anything more obsessed with local needs and interests.

One of the reasons TDs spend so much time on constituency matters is because they

have little real input into public policy. An already weak Dáil has been weakened

even further by the introduction of Social Partnership and the increase in the use of

agencies whose lines of accountability are unclear, such as the HSE and Fás.

Furthermore local government is so weak and undemocratic that few local services

are determined at that level. Strengthening the Dáil and local government should

mean that TDs have better things to do and voters do not demand such services from

TDs. TDs will have greatly augmented powers and roles within the Dáil as outlined

already. Local government will be transformed into regional government with

extended functions, revenue raising powers and much greater accountability to the


The Irish people have twice rejected changing the constitution, so it is fair to say that

there is a level of attachment to it.

1. A Rational Proposal

If the objection to PR-STV is that it produces locally oriented TDs one

mechanism could be to keep PR-STV but remove any incentive for locallyoriented

behaviour, that it to remove the geographical basis for constituencies.

While this sounds like an eccentric idea, non-geographic constituencies

already exist in Ireland. Constituencies for the Seanad are on the basis of

predetermined policy areas not geography.

Constituencies would still exist, so Ireland could have 33 five seat

constituencies1. Each would currently contain about 100,000 people. Voters

would, on reaching voting age, be randomly assigned to a constituency, to

which they would belong for the rest of their lives. Each constituency would in

effect be a random sample of the whole population, and so each would be

similar in its make-up, views and so on.

Parties could select candidates for each constituency as they see fit, but it is

likely that they would want to have a well established candidate and a newer

one. Independents could still run, but they would have to have a national focus

if they wished to get elected.

Because voters from all over the country will share a constituency there is no

incentive for TDs to pursue locally or regionally-based policies. For instance,

no candidate will favour retention of services in particular hospitals, rather

they will seek the improvement of health services nationally. Decisions about

the allocation of investment in roads would be based on what is best nationally

rather than what is desired in the constituency of a TD, who Dáil arithmetic

happens to make unusually powerful. TDs will become interested in nationally

oriented goals and national policy. To counterbalance the greater focus on

1 This number gives a 165 seat Dáil. Though there are demands for a smaller Dáil it would be difficult

to sustain a functioning committee system of about 15 committees with reasonable levels of

specialisation with a smaller number of TDs, especially in the context of the Seanad’s abolition

national politics by TDs, local government structures will be extended and

empowered to provide effective local governance for citizens.

Geographic constituencies made sense for administrative efficiency. Technologies

now exist to facilitate a move to non-location based constituencies. Internet and email

access mean it is possible for constituents to contact their TDs. TDs will be able

to embrace new technologies to keep in contact with constituents reasonably easily. It

would be possible to have dedicated website for each constituency and internet

television channels will allow each TD to communicate directly with constituents.

Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are already demonstrating how TDs can

develop a national following and use social media to communicate directly with their

voters. In fact, social media are allowing TDs and political candidates to by-pass

existing party press offices and are facilitating unmediated national communication

between politicians and voters.

On a practical level, examples of paper-based electronic voting that have been tested

would enable this type of electoral system to operate. In fact it should be possible for

a voter to cast their ballot in any polling station in the country and not in one fixed

place, and in time there should be sufficient security to allow online voting.

Objections can be raised to this system. What happens when one region is

systematically neglected? Is it likely that without a local promoter no one would have

an incentive to highlight or prioritise an area such as Moyross in Limerick City? Here

parties might make a decision to give some attention if it were thought it could gain

sufficient votes, generally by being seen to address an issue. In addition, an

empowered system of local government would address many of the matters currently

being pursued by TDs. Citizens with concerns about local facilities, local policing,

local education policy would best have their issues address through an empowered

system of local democracy.

It might also reduce the link between the voter and the TD. Though some argue this is

too close, the proximity of politicians to ordinary people is a great benefit of the Irish

political system, and one that keeps the country stable even at times of great

instability. We would expect that parties would be keen to restart the idea of town hall

meetings, so instead of TDs meeting with people privately about private matters, they

would meet with the public who would be engaged in solving general policy

problems, not just their own. Again, new technologies and social media could be

employed to great effect in starting national campaigns and drawing attention to new

and emerging political issues and events. There might be legitimate fears that a

decline in turnout would occur, to counteract this, compulsory voting could be

implemented for three electoral cycles, to generate a culture of voting as a civic


Another objection would be that it could systematically work against those groups

who might be geographically clustered but who are in a minority nationally. For

instance if this were adopted in the UK, Scots might feel they were ignored. But

Ireland is a small country without the major social divisions other countries suffer.

For this reason Ireland is an ideal country for this system to work in.

Outcome of Reforms

This is without doubt a radical proposal and one that would need to be considered

carefully. Though it would not require a change of the constitution we think people

should be consulted. But it would deal with all the objections usually levelled against

PR-STV but retain the many benefits PR-STV has in terms of voter choice and


Ultimately, it would elect representative who put Ireland first and not hold the country

to ransom for local demands. The small number, and fierce competition in Irish

politics, means that frequently a small number of TDs wield great power. Nongeographic

constituencies would make it much more difficult for such geographically

based vested interests to capture a small number of TDs. The Dáil would become a

forum for national policy debate with TDs whose incentive to re-election would drive

them to perform on the national stage. Local issues would be returned to local

government where they can be more effectively and appropriately addressed.

A More Efficient and Coherent Administration of PR-STV – Electoral


Choosing a new electoral system or adapting the existing system still leaves much that

needs to be improved in the functioning of electoral administration and outcomes.

Ireland has one of the lowest female participation rates in the OECD area as well as

low levels of youth participation. In addition, there are issues concerning votes for

both emigrants and immigrants, as well as the timing of elections and facilitation

measures such as postal voting. All of these can be tackled through a constitutionally

mandated Electoral Commission.

Responsibility for Irish elections, political parties and electioneering is scattered

across a wide range of bodies with a high degree of fragmentation. For example, the

Clerk of the Dáil registers political parties; while 34 local authorities are responsible

for the compilation of the electoral register some with a greater degree of accuracy

than others. Since 1997, a statutory boundary commission has had the responsibility

for the conduct of elections. However, it devolves this role to constituency returning

officers, who in the case of Dáil elections are typically county registrars (who form

part of the courts service). Since 2001 a further separate body, the Standards in Public

Office Commission, has the responsibility for monitoring electoral income and

expenditure and for enforcement of rules relating to standards in public office.

There are also a number of inefficiencies in the system. The electoral register is out

of date, and at times wildly inaccurate, constituency boundaries change frequently;

there are perceived biases in the ballot structure, and choices to be made over the

distribution over surplus votes and the conducting of by-elections.

Turnout in Ireland is also relatively low in a European context and measures to

maximise registration and turnout should also be examined.

2. Establish a Statutory Electoral Commission

Establish an independent statutory electoral commission as recommend by the

All Party Committee on the Constitution. This Commission should be placed

on a constitutional basis in order to enhance its legitimacy and to guarantee its


Enact an Electoral Commission Bill which would amend and consolidate the

law in this area, bringing together in one Act the law relating to referendums

and elections to local authorities, Údarás na Gaeltachta, the European

Parliament, Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann and the Office of President of


In the context of retaining geographic based constituencies, redraw

constituency boundaries with between five and seven seats. This will require

much greater disregarding of county boundaries. Finally, introduce a rolling

electoral register and base it on unique PPS numbers. This will alleviate the

persistent problem with the electoral register.

3. Operation of Elections and Counting of Votes

There are a number of vital policy areas in this category which require urgent

consideration. The method of counting surplus votes needs to be adjusted to

eliminate the random nature of the current method. The structure of the ballot

paper needs to be examined. Rules are needed with regard to by election time

limits and/ or alternate lists. Maximising turnout is also an important goal in

terms of increasing democratic legitimacy and there are a number of changes

to be recommended here. These include weekend voting over two days to

maximise turnout and greater access to postal voting. A youth education and

participation programme in schools, such as that operated in Norway, should

be considered and the possibility of reducing the voting age and extending

participation in the area of votes for emigrants and for immigrants should be

on the list. Finally, exploring options for increasing the participation of

women in politics whether through incentive structures for a candidate’s

selection or short term gender quotas needs to be addressed.

It is important that certain specific policy-making functions should be reserved

to the Minister, for example fixing the date of polling, deciding whether to

approve a specific form of electronic voting recommended by the commission,

or proposing changes to the electoral system. In those specific cases, the role

of the commission would be merely to advise a course of action to the

Minister, who would have final responsibility for the matter and in the case of

changes to the electoral system should put the matter to the people first

through form of citizen assembly.

4. Transparency and Accountability

The recommendations from the Council of Europe’s Group of States against

Corruption (GRECO) should be implemented. This would include the

introduction of legislation to make sure that violations of political funding

rules are coupled with sanctions. The Electoral Commission should be given

investigative and sanctioning powers to address these issues.

Outcome of Reforms

The establishment of an Electoral Commission could significantly enhance the

effectiveness, inclusiveness and legitimacy of the Irish electoral process. Elections

will be managed in a centralised, more organised and coherent manner. An Electoral

Commission can also work to achieve full transparency and accountability in the

financing of political parties and election and referendum campaigns. Ongoing

centralised evaluation of electoral registers and constituency boundaries would

minimise the controversy surrounding these issues.

A system on continuous evaluation of electoral policy and practice would prevent the

system from descending into its current state of dysfunction. Critically, controversies

over the operation of elections take from their overall function of generating

legitimacy. A statutory commission, independent of government, would depoliticise

policy proposals and reduce the opportunities for “gerrymandering”, and other abuses

within the system.

Finally, an Electoral Commission could be tasked with voter registration and

education drives. It is clear that these initiatives are successful but they are located in

the voluntary sector and severely constrained by resources. A statutory body, properly

resourced, could bring about significant improvements in turnout through a

coordinated national campaign of registration and education. And, increased turnout

will ultimately mean increased governmental legitimacy

III Renewing Local Government

Giving Local Administration Back to the People

Irish local government is a misnomer. There are a plethora of local authorities in

Ireland but in practice, the system is closer to local administration than local

government. City and county managers run the local authorities, subject to very

limited democratic accountability. There is little fiscal autonomy and considerable

vertical imbalance. The existing system dates back centuries and piecemeal reform

has produced an incoherent and ineffective system. The preceding reform proposals

have focused on eliminating elements of localism in Irish political life. This section

will present reforms designed to reinvigorate local democracy and extend and

empower local government, allowing local matters to stay local.

Apart from Dáil Éireann and the presidency, local government is the only Irish

institution whose members are directly elected by all of the people of Ireland.

Accordingly, local government has both a representational and operational role. The

creation of non geographic constituencies for Dáil elections will enhance the

importance of local representation and the reforms outlined herein will extend the

operational role over time.

There are three central areas to be addressed, the structure of local government, the

financial basis of local government and the functions for which it has responsibility.

Structure of Local Government in Ireland

There are many justifications for local government and local democracy. Chief

amongst these are building and articulating community identity, promoting citizenship

and participation and dispersing power. Central government is not equipped to grasp

the inimitable conditions of each locality and therefore a vibrant sub-national system

of democracy is imperative. Presently, there are 114 local authorities in Ireland, of

varying size and power. This has contributed to a fractured system and sub optimal

outcomes for citizens and businesses. There are three immediate structural reforms


1. Reorganise local authorities/councils on a regional basis with 4 metropolitan

areas and no more than six local authorities/councils.

Fragmentation of governance in metropolitan areas has resulted in disjointed

and disorderly planning and development in many cities. Ridiculous boundary

divisions are the subject of decade long negotiations which end in status quo.

It is vital that local authorities are restructured on a coherent geographical and

planned manner. There is enormous administrative overlap at present and this

will also be greatly minimised in the reorganisation.

2. Provide Democratic Accountability – Directly Elected Mayors

The present system of administration is controlled by city and county

managers that are not accountable to the electorate and are minimally

accountable to existing councillors. We should create a position of mayor in

each metropolitan area and local council. Mayors will replace county and city

managers. These will be full time executive positions. Mayors will be

immediately accountable to councillors in each area, they will be accountable

through the electoral cycle and finally, they will be required to appear before

the Dail Finance Committee and Local Government Committee at least twice

per year. Providing a recall function for mayors, on petition of a significant

number of electors will also, to further enhance democratic accountability.

This is common in other democracies such as the United States.

3. Extend Existing Town and Borough Councils Nationally

A genuine bottom-up approach to democracy would mean that town or

community councils would be the primary units of local government as

opposed to regional government structures. These would be small units with

low staff numbers but they would be responsible for local decision making.


Local authorities collect their revenue from a number of sources. They receive block

and specific funding from central government. Locally, they raise revenue from

commercial rates and a variety of user charges. Consequently, local authorities are

heavily reliant on central government for the bulk of their resources. A host of reports

have been written over the past thirty years about local government finance. There is a

general consensus in all of them that Irish local authorities require an autonomous

source of revenue. It is an immediate imperative to place local government on a firm

financial footing. This requires the creation of new revenue sources and reform of

existing funding arrangements.

The very essence of local accountability is people paying a form of taxation to their

local council and seeing that self same money ploughed back into the community in

terms of enhanced services. At the moment, there is by and large no direct link

between the services provided to households and what households pay.

The effect is to cause a ‘demand-led’ approach to service provision. Locals can seek

additional services, safe in the knowledge that very often they will come from the

general revenues of government rather than from local taxpayers. Establishing a real

link between local spending and local revenue requires that regional authorities have

the power to vary the rate of any new tax, according to the needs and demands of

different local areas.

Most countries operate a system of local taxation. If local people want additional

services, these have to be funded. Voters are presented with choices at local election

time, between those who promise additional or new services (which have to be paid

for), and those who promise to keep local taxes low (with the hard choices about

reducing services that necessarily follow).

The local spending – local revenue raising link serves a number of important

functions. First, it is more democratic, giving voters a real choice at local elections,

and giving meaningful powers to directly-elected councils. It also provides a facility

for local people to have local needs addressed from local resources – a core premise

of local government. Second, it makes local politicians more accountable – rather than

just pandering to the latest call for a new service or facility to be established, local

councillors know that they themselves will have to raise the money to pay for such

facilities. Experience shows that where such taxes are introduced, there is greater

scrutiny of how local taxpayers’ money is spent. This leads to the third function, that

a clearer link between what people pay and the services they receive encourages a

more responsible use of resources, and thereby facilitates economy and efficiency.

4. A Local Property Tax

Levy a local property tax on all domestic houses. The tax should be structured

so that both size and value of the property contribute to the final amount paid

by householders.

5. Introduce Water Payments

Water is a scarce resource and it is the only utility provided free to

householders. There are growing costs associated with the provision of water

and the maintenance of a high quality infrastructure. Water charges are an

essential element of a stable financial base for local authorities.

6. Equalisation Mechanisms to be Retained but Reformed

Local councils will be able to raise variable amounts under the extended

financial arrangements outlined above. It is essential that certain basic levels

of equality exist among authorities. An equalisation grant should be provided

to authorities that raise revenue below an agreed level. This grant should be

provided in block form and specific grants to authorities should be kept to a


A stable and independent financial basis for local authorities is essential to provide

mayors with the resources to maintain and develop services in their areas.


The elected council is formally the policy-making arm of the local authority with

responsibility for the adoption of annual budgets, bye-laws and development plans. At

present, local authorities have responsibility in a variety of areas: housing and

building; road transportation and safety; water supply and sewerage; development

incentives and control; environmental protection; and, recreation and amenities;

agriculture, education, health and welfare. Whilst, the list might appear broad, the

reality is that local authorities in Ireland have a very narrow range of functions in

comparison to most other European countries. The Irish system reflects a top-down

approach with specific functions being allocated by central government, which

exercises control.

There is a clear need for more functions to be devolved to local government and for

local authorities to move away from just providing services associated with the

physical environment. In most countries, policing, tourism, education and transport

form part of the range of services offered by local government. Once again the Irish

approach is disconnected and fragmented. Many local authorities have produced

innovative transport policies based on a reduction in car usage and an increase in

public transport usage. Yet, at the same time, Bus Éireann is shutting down routes and

reducing services. There is an obvious lack of joined-up thinking. To address many of

these issues, the following is proposed:

7. Empower Mayors with Policy Decision Making and Expand Functional Basis.

Developments should follow appropriate regional and management

reorganisation. Powers and roles could be extended in policing and education,

to give greater power to local communities and encourage subsidiarity, which

asserts that decisions should be devolved and services provided at the lowest

appropriate level closest to the citizen.

8. Forward Planning and Policy Evaluation

Extend all forward planning requirements and policy evaluation mechanisms

developed for central government, in an appropriate format, to local

authorities. Policies will be required to include medium and long term costing.

Outcome of Reforms

The huge potential that exists at local level in Ireland has never been fully appreciated

or explored. The benefits of a renewed, restructured, re-branded and re-energised

system of local government are enormous. Not least amongst these is that we might

finally achieve a meaningful demarcation and separation between local and national

government. If local government was self-financing and responsible for an enhanced

range of functions this would free up our national administration and our TDs and

allow them to focus on national priorities as opposed to stepping on the toes of local

councils and councillors.

The central point is that any restructuring of local government in Ireland should be

based on local needs and a coherent organisational structure. Executive mayors are

essential to wrest power from an overly bureaucratic and sclerotic management

system. However, these mayors must be accountable to the electorate, the councils to

which they are responsible and to central government. Reforming the financial basis

of local authorities would give greater autonomy to authorities and will ultimately

enhance accountability and build representative links between citizens and businesses

and their local authority.

It is also suggested that local government should be used as a laboratory for political

reform. At this level, different proposals can be tested. For example, a reduction of the

voting age to 16; electronic voting (e.g. Scotland), Sunday voting, non-partisan

elections; recall procedure; a consideration of whether representation by region should

be replaced by representation by function.

IV Open government

Let the Light In

The Irish state has what can only be described as a fetish for secrecy, Rather than a

presumption of openness the Irish political and civil service elites operate a

presumption of secrecy unless disclosure turns out to be absolutely unavoidable. This

secrecy leads almost invariably to poor policy outcomes. In fact, there is increasing

evidence that open government and transparency is the key to efficient and effective


There are numerous problems with Irish government decision making. Each quarter

the C&AG publicises examples of enormous waste and inefficient decision making on

the part of government ministers and departments as well as public sector bodies. In

addition, there is ample evidence that decision making on government spending is

skewed towards allocations to ministers’ constituencies. Decisions are often made in

an ad hoc manner based on hunch, anecdotal evidence or on partisan grounds. This is

enormously wasteful.

Secrecy also erodes public trust in government and in democracy, while the lack of

trust in representative democracy presents major challenges to politics and to citizen

engagement. Open government works to counteract this by increasing the ability of

citizens, business and civil society organisations to collectively influence public


Countries throughout the world are moving at various speeds towards the presumption

of openness for all government data. The UK has pioneered this through an office of

public sector information. The Danes and French are developing open systems while

there is even the possibility of a pan-European portal. Further afield, New Zealand

and Australia are both opening up government data to various extents. Ireland must

not be left out of this new wave and if we can act quickly can even be seen as part of

the vanguard of this process, a place that is appropriate for a country that aspires to be

a knowledge society.

Opening up government decision making and data can reduce the costs of doing

business, enabling the country involved to become more competitive. It enables us to

improve public sector delivery. At the end of the day we get more for less by

publishing data. This is an argument that transcends partisan discussion and ensures

that the influence of vested interests is limited to the maximum extent possible.

Critical Issues

The goal for Ireland is to ensure that all government decisions and data are open with

those responsible for decisions capable of being held accountable. This must hold for

all levels of governance including local and national and for all public bodies. There

are reasons to think the “next web” will be about making this data available. The

bottom line is that transparency makes government more accountable, people more

engaged and the whole system more efficient.

Openness also enables deficit reduction by eliminating much wasteful spending and

drives the economy by encouraging companies, non profit organisations and web

entrepreneurs to develop applications and build innovative websites which make full

use of the data. This in turn allows people to lobby and change government decisions.

In the jargon it means that all government decisions can be scrutinised by a perpetual

crowd sourced” audit. A country aspiring to be a knowledge economy must be at the

vanguard of this growing global movement.

1. Reforming Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act 1997 was considered close to international

best practice. The Act gave the citizen three new legal rights; the right to

consult official records (except those that related to internal security and

foreign relations), the right to update and correct personal information that was

inaccurate and the right to be given reasons why public decisions were made

when they affect the person in question. Access to information included

cabinet papers but not discussion, which would be available to the public after

five years.

The Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003 instituted a major

reversal placing major restrictions on the access to the decisions of public

bodies, including significant charges, and extending cabinet paper secrecy to

10 years. Requests dropped by 50 percent in the year after the amendment was

introduced increasing the distance between the government and the people.

A new Freedom of Information Bill must not only restore FoI but extend it to

cover public institutions not now within its remit including state owned banks,

the Garda and Nama.

In recent years, the international transparency movement has now moved

beyond FoI. The new goal is for the public to have easy electronic access to all

public data without the need for FoI. After all if we do not know what

information is there so we cannot know what to ask for.

2. Build an Open Government Website

Build an open government website with a view to publishing major

government databases. Datasets which are currently widely requested under

FoI should be first on the list to be published as machine readable documents.

Clusters of open data enrich each other so sum is greater than the parts.

Over time the open government website should include all data on spending,

tendering and expenses and other decisions from all governments departments,

state and semi state organisations and state supported banks. The bottom line

is that in all decisions there should be a presumption in favour of openness

with all published data licensed for free reuse.

3. Publish Data with an Open Licence on Open Source Software.

There is of course a trade off between quality data and time effectiveness.

However, most data can be published in an initial version and later improved

on with appropriate sampling, weighting and so on.

4. Establish a Register of Lobbyists

Lobbying is a central and legitimate part of the policy process in all

democratic political systems, including Ireland. The work of lobbyists is

essential because these actors offer input into the decision-making process and

thereby help influence policy outputs. In that context a Register of Lobbyists

is central to restoring faith in the Irish democratic sphere. One misplaced

assumption which often seems to be accepted without question by the public

and journalists is that lobbyists themselves oppose any form of registration

system. But in fact in those jurisdictions that employ lobbying regulation,

including the US and Canada, the overwhelming evidence is that lobbyists are

not averse to states having registers of lobbyists.

5. Enshrine the principle of the right to data in legislation

Establish a new office of the information commissioner which should be a non

government controlled body which can be entrusted, facilitated, and resourced

as central conduit for all public data. The body should include representation

from external experts as public sector data specialists and should be

responsible for setting open data standards and ensuring these are adhered to

across the public service.

The extent of Cabinet confidentiality as practised in Ireland is unprecedented

among Western Democracies. It stems from the notion of collective

responsibility and that all ministers must present a united front on all policy,

regardless of private views on any issue. This ensures that ministers cannot

criticise any aspect of government policy. Ultimately, a transparent society

with the freedom to access all documentation, reinforces the notion of being a

truly sovereign nation

Include cabinet discussions in the five year rule for publication and release.

6. Repeal the Official Secrets Act

The Official Secrets Act is also a barrier to openness. It was introduced

following a civil war and strengthened at a time of internal national security

threat. It concentrates on the protection of official information and indeed on

individuals, and in doing so may help suppress evidence of serious

wrongdoing. Breaking the Official Secrets Act is punishable with up to seven

years imprisonment. Official information is understood to be very widespread

even including the working of public bodies. It extends far beyond information

relating to national security.

Outcome of reforms

Making these changes will ensure that the people of Ireland can hold minsters and

their advisers accountable. Opening up government decisions and data will also result

in a more engaged citizenry, while building consent and legitimacy is essential for any

feasible recovery strategy.

Politics is the art of, among other things, sustaining good decision-making

capabilities. Crucially opening up government data will also ensure that future

government decisions will be transparent while decisions and policy should be based

on evidence rather than on a whim or on a hunch of the minister or his adviser. It will

ensure that wasteful expenditure and spending targeted at winning votes are greatly

reduced. In the future if decisions need to be made on where spending should be cut

or increased it will be done from a basis of knowing where the spending was going in

the first place. We know that opening up this information will change behaviour.

A register of lobbyists will legitimise lobby groups as actors in the policy process and

gives a certain transparency to their activities Equally, it allows citizens to see what

lobby groups are doing and to whom in government they are talking. The result is that

over time citizens become less cynical about the work and nature of lobby

organisations, lobbyists, and indeed, politicians.

Open government will also ensure that Ireland is at the vanguard of this next global

web development. It will provide opportunities for businesses, NGOs and

entrepreneurs. The business model will allow anyone to take public data and to add

value in numerous different ways. Moreover, people will work out to monetise this in

various ways, thus advancing the nation.

Implementation Plan

A set of proposals presented without an implementation plan and an associated

financial outline is better known as a marketing strategy. It is essential that each of the

proposals outlined above are understood as part of an overall package of reform

measures. The next government of Ireland must commit to addressing the

shortcomings in the political system as a matter of urgency. The time frame provided

below indicates that all measures could be enacted within three years.

Many of the measures would bring about immediate legal change but would also lead

to a slow cultural change within Irish political life. Research demonstrates that

governments are most active and innovative in their early years in power. The first

100 days in power is a political and media device but it does set the tone and approach

which a government will take. Consequently, immediate action on political reform

should be demanded by the electorate.

Four mechanisms are required to implement the series of proposals; change in

parliamentary standing orders, legislative change, budgetary decisions and changes to

the constitution by referendum. Reforms are grouped by mechanism of

implementation. The implementation plan begins with the reformed election

mechanism for the Ceann Comhairle, which could be achieved within a week to a

group of seven changes to Bunreacht na hÉireann, which would each require a

referendum. In some instances, a case could be made that a referendum is not needed,

it is however, best to copper fasten reforms and prevent future legal challenges.

Changes requiring a referendum need to be put in train very quickly. Each referendum

proposal needs to be put to the people within an area group, and not as a single

package. A single package might fail because of objections to an issue. Proposals

should be grouped by category.

The last group of changes to be implemented relate to open and transparent

government. This in no way reflects a prioritisation of reform. In fact, these are

among the most critical proposals outlined here. However, it makes some

administrative sense to create the new institutional and administrative structures first

and then open all aspects of a new and reformed political system to open and

transparent government.

Figure Three

Change in Parliamentary Practice

1. An election of the Ceann

Comhairle by secret ballot



Cost Neutral One Week

2. A complete revision of Dáil

Standing Orders and restrictions on

the use of the guillotine



Cost Neutral Six Months

Legislative Change

3. Strengthen the committee system Legislation Cost Neutral Six Months

4. Use Dáil committees to vet and

approve senior public


Legislation Cost Neutral Six Months

5. Set up an Office for the Opposition

Legislation Additional Cost Six Months

6. Forward Planning Unit

Legislation Additional Cost Six Months

7. Operation of Elections and

Counting of Votes

Legislation Additional Cost Twenty Four


8. Transparency and

Accountability Reforms in


Legislation Cost Neutral Twenty Four


9. Reorganise local

authorities/councils on a

regional basis with 4

metropolitan areas and no more

than six local


Legislation Cost Saving Eighteen


10. Provide Democratic

Accountability – Directly

Elected Mayors

Legislation Cost Neutral Eighteen


11. Extend Existing Town and

Borough Councils Nationally

Legislation Additional Cost Eighteen


12. Equalisation Mechanisms to be

Retained but Reformed

Legislation Cost Neutral Eighteen


13. Empower Mayors with Policy

Decision Making and Expand

Functional Basis.

Legislation Cost Neutral Eighteen


14. Forward Planning and Policy


Legislation Additional Cost Twenty Four


15. Reforming Freedom of


Legislation Cost Neutral Twelve


16. Build an Open Government


Legislation Additional Cost Twelve


17. Publish Data with an Open

Licence on Open Source


Legislation Additional Cost Thirty Six


18. Establish a Register of


Legislation Cost Neutral –


transferred to


Thirty Six


19. Repeal the Official Secrets Act

Legislation Cost Neutral Thirty Six


Budget Decisions

20. A Local Property Tax


Decision –




Next Budget

21. Introduce Water Payments


Decision –




Phased In –

Thirty Six


Reforms Requiring a Constitutional Referendum

22. Ministers should not be

constituency representatives

Referendum Additional Cost Eighteen


23. Allow non parliamentarians

become ministers

Referendum Additional Cost Eighteen


24. A referendum establishing the

right of the Dáil to inquire into

certain matters

Referendum Additional Cost Eighteen


25. Abolish Seanad Eireann Referendum Cost Saving Eighteen


26. Reform Electoral System –

remove geographical


Referendum Cost Neutral Eighteen


27. Establish an Electoral


Referendum Additional Cost Eighteen


28. Enshrine, the principle of the

right to data in legislation

Referendum Cost Neutral Eighteen



The scale of the crisis has been so vast that sweeping reform is essential. Tinkering at

the edges will have no effect. Populist solutions which promise a quick fix will feed

into the growing disconnect between citizens and their political system. What is

needed is a sweeping panorama of reform. Without this Ireland risks sleep walking

into another crisis in twenty years time. Political reform must be holistic and

encompass the entire system of politics. These reforms work through the entire

system and are designed to create a system of politics suitable to a twenty first century

political system. This is a plan for a new politics which puts Ireland First.