Political Reform – Effective and Efficient Government
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 –
19. Repeal the Official Secrets Act
Legislation Cost Neutral Thirty Six
20. A Local Property Tax
21. Introduce Water Payments
Phased In –
Reforms Requiring a Constitutional Referendum
22. Ministers should not be
Referendum Additional Cost Eighteen
23. Allow non parliamentarians
Referendum Additional Cost Eighteen
24. A referendum establishing the
right of the Dáil to inquire into
Referendum Additional Cost Eighteen
25. Abolish Seanad Eireann Referendum Cost Saving Eighteen
26. Reform Electoral System –
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.