Dáil and Electoral Reform

johndodger

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Much has been said on this board about the state of our politicians and the need for electoral reform, but what kind of reform is needed? IMHO the main problems with the current system are:

1) TD's are elected as legislators but are in essence glorified councillors who spend much of their time dealing with queries from constituents that should either be dealt with by councillors and attending funerals and other events etc. all for the purpose of vote keeping/getting and playing one-upmanship with their fellow constituency TDs.

This does not necessarily make them bad TDs, and is not necessarily the fault of the TDs. If you want to make a real difference you have to get elected and re-elected. To do that necessitates them having to “play the game”. If you, as a TD, don't attend X or Y's funeral and your opponent does, he or she will likely get the votes of that family. Similarly if someone comes to your clinic looking for that funding they were denied hoping you can pull a few strings or looking to be put up the waiting list for something or other, you are more likely to help (or at least give the appearance of “doing all you can”) because otherwise they will go to your fellow constituency TD (whether of the same party or another) and they will get the votes. We often criticise our TDs for this kind of behaviour, but the system, and the people, encourage it. Its parish pump politics.

2) Corporate funding: This encourages (at least the perception) of corruption and contributes to the decline in respect of politicians as a whole.

3) Cost. We have too many TD’s and they cost too much.


I would suggest the following changes:

1) Reduce the number of TDs to 120. Elect half via PR-STD in 60 single seat constituencies. Elect the other 60 via a list system. This will help to ensure that at least half of the TDs can concentrate solely on legislative matters and will ensure that smaller parties have a chance of representation.

2) Compulsory training for TDs, funded by the parties, in how to govern covering all matters of legislation, constitution affairs etc. Also, a comprehensive information programme in schools to educate young people as to the real purpose of a TD to attempt to break the tradition of parish pump politics.

3) Reform the Seanad so that it actually fulfils its original intention of being a panel of experts to scrutinise legislation, rather than a waiting room for prospective TDs or a retirement home for ex-TDs. This could comprise a combination of members elected or appointed from various bodies representing industry, trade unions, universities etc., some members appointed as of right by virtue of their position as heads of particular organisations, some members elected by the general populace (perhaps representing each province or EU parliament constituency) and some "life" members such as former Taoisigh and outstanding citizens elected by 2/3rds majority of the Dáil.

4) Reduce pay and pensions for TDs and reform the system of expenses.

5) End corporate donations to individual parties. Instead parties to be funded by individual donations (capped at say €5,000 per individual) augmented by some state funding and possible funding from a pool generated by corporate donations allocated on a pro-rata basis (many companies already fund multiple parties).

What do you think?
 


ocoonassa

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Oct 14, 2010
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6,124
Needs to be radical reform of the system and a purge of the current political class.

I think the best overall effort I've seen so far is coming from these people

If we can get an actual democracy comprised of sovereign citizens then everything else will fall into place.
 

Goodbody

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Joined
Sep 21, 2010
Messages
1,481
No, no, no to a list system, except for replacing elected TD's. We would have Celia Larkin, Paddy The Plasterer and other assorted cronies filling the back benches.

One seat constituencies, with Single Transferable Vote. Separate the Govt from the Oireachtas by requiring any Minister appointed from the Oireachtas to resign his/her seat (like they do in France).
 

Rochey

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Joined
May 20, 2004
Messages
75
Much has been said on this board about the state of our politicians and the need for electoral reform, but what kind of reform is needed? IMHO the main problems with the current system are:

1) TD's are elected as legislators but are in essence glorified councillors who spend much of their time dealing with queries from constituents that should either be dealt with by councillors and attending funerals and other events etc. all for the purpose of vote keeping/getting and playing one-upmanship with their fellow constituency TDs.

This does not necessarily make them bad TDs, and is not necessarily the fault of the TDs. If you want to make a real difference you have to get elected and re-elected. To do that necessitates them having to “play the game”. If you, as a TD, don't attend X or Y's funeral and your opponent does, he or she will likely get the votes of that family. Similarly if someone comes to your clinic looking for that funding they were denied hoping you can pull a few strings or looking to be put up the waiting list for something or other, you are more likely to help (or at least give the appearance of “doing all you can”) because otherwise they will go to your fellow constituency TD (whether of the same party or another) and they will get the votes. We often criticise our TDs for this kind of behaviour, but the system, and the people, encourage it. Its parish pump politics.

2) Corporate funding: This encourages (at least the perception) of corruption and contributes to the decline in respect of politicians as a whole.

3) Cost. We have too many TD’s and they cost too much.


I would suggest the following changes:

1) Reduce the number of TDs to 120. Elect half via PR-STD in 60 single seat constituencies. Elect the other 60 via a list system. This will help to ensure that at least half of the TDs can concentrate solely on legislative matters and will ensure that smaller parties have a chance of representation.

2) Compulsory training for TDs, funded by the parties, in how to govern covering all matters of legislation, constitution affairs etc. Also, a comprehensive information programme in schools to educate young people as to the real purpose of a TD to attempt to break the tradition of parish pump politics.

3) Reform the Seanad so that it actually fulfils its original intention of being a panel of experts to scrutinise legislation, rather than a waiting room for prospective TDs or a retirement home for ex-TDs. This could comprise a combination of members elected or appointed from various bodies representing industry, trade unions, universities etc., some members appointed as of right by virtue of their position as heads of particular organisations, some members elected by the general populace (perhaps representing each province or EU parliament constituency) and some "life" members such as former Taoisigh and outstanding citizens elected by 2/3rds majority of the Dáil.

4) Reduce pay and pensions for TDs and reform the system of expenses.

5) End corporate donations to individual parties. Instead parties to be funded by individual donations (capped at say €5,000 per individual) augmented by some state funding and possible funding from a pool generated by corporate donations allocated on a pro-rata basis (many companies already fund multiple parties).

What do you think?
If we were to stick with a parliamentary system I'd agree with a lot of that. Particularly the breakdown of how the Dail would be elected. I thought something similar to the Seanad myself - perhaps the public would register to vote in one or two Seanad categories - Education, Finance, Health etc - as opposed to constituencies. I hadn't really thought about how to nominate people for election to these categories, maybe by so many signatures or a fairly high bond that would be return if you got over a certain percentage. I also thought that you couldn't put any party names on the ballot for the Seanad and this might encourage a less partisan system.

I would prefer myself to move to a Presidential Republic with the parliament acting purely as a legislative body and not an executive one. Also I'd like to see a massive reform of local government.
 

Rochey

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Joined
May 20, 2004
Messages
75
No, no, no to a list system, except for replacing elected TD's. We would have Celia Larkin, Paddy The Plasterer and other assorted cronies filling the back benches.

One seat constituencies, with Single Transferable Vote. Separate the Govt from the Oireachtas by requiring any Minister appointed from the Oireachtas to resign his/her seat (like they do in France).
That would be my only worry with a list - there'd be no way to keep out Royston Brady et al if they got onto a list. But overall I think its better than the current system. People would be less focussed on local (council) issues.
 

asterix

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Joined
Dec 19, 2008
Messages
283
If we're keeping STV it should at least be modernised; we still use a 19th-century version where FF's "vote management" machine can game the system. And calling a 3-seat constituency "PR" is laughable (of course Bunreacht na hÉireann calls one-seat STV PR).

On a topical note, Australian STV doesn't have by-elections: they use a countback method where the original ballot papers are dusted off and the departed candidate's votes are redistributed till somebody else exceeds the quota.
 

biteback

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Jan 26, 2007
Messages
111
I'd also like to make voting compulsory (as in Australia). You must notify them if you will be away or do not want to vote so it acts more like an opt-out not to vote. The turnout there was 93.21% for this year's House of Reps elections and slightly higher again for the Senate ones.

I am sick of people who I know would never vote (heard an unmarried mother on it recently) bemoaning the government not paying enough towards their kids etc. or not paying for taxi's into school for them (seriously!).

I also think elections should be held either on Sundays or spread over two days - i.e. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The timing of the DSW by-election is typical FF, i.e. when students (most likely to vote against the government as they don't have the same tolerance of civil war politics) and those who might work outside the constituency are away.
 

Simbo67

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Jan 23, 2004
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572
This is the time for Fine Gael to step up and basically get far more radical on their constitutional reforms. We need to start again, the first republic has failed.
 

Sucker Punch

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Apr 29, 2008
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There are several good insights to be taken from the OP. I would however piont out that political reform moves at glacial pace in Ireland. To achieve all of this would take years and then only on the basis that a political party would change the rules, thus putting themselves at a disadvantage the next time out.

I propose minimal changes which would not take much effort in the short to medium term:

Firstly implement the Seanad reforms which have already been signed off by an all party committee, we can then assess the impact of PR list and see if it's a runner for the lower chamber. Although I'm not a huge fan of the Seanad, it would be a good way to bring in experts and even open up the possibility of putting two of the best into cabinet. Additionally, the Seanad would be useful in a PR list context to redress gender balance in the political system as a whole.

Second, establish an independent electoral commission with a view to creating larger constituencies. This would make STV more proportional. Without need for a constitutional amendment, the electoral commission could also reduce 15-20 TDs by better approximating 1 TD for every 30,000 citizens.
Again, the reason to go for this minimalist approach is to get a move on ASAP and not pr1ck around forever looking for a big bang approach.
 

goosebump

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2) Compulsory training for TDs, funded by the parties, in how to govern covering all matters of legislation, constitution affairs etc.
Sure.

So who would perform the training, and how would we decide what the TDs should be taught?

I can't see any constitutional issues with this at all. I'd be perfectly happy for some private, unaccountable training firm to have the constitutional right to shape the opions and behaviour of my parliamentarians.
 

johndodger

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Joined
May 5, 2010
Messages
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Needs to be radical reform of the system and a purge of the current political class.

I think the best overall effort I've seen so far is coming from these people

If we can get an actual democracy comprised of sovereign citizens then everything else will fall into place.
I like the system of Direct Democracy but I don't think the Irish electorate are mature enough for it.


No, no, no to a list system, except for replacing elected TD's. We would have Celia Larkin, Paddy The Plasterer and other assorted cronies filling the back benches.
I agree its risky, but whats the alternative? Also, not all parties would put in just their friends and with mandatory training it would at least make them somewhat more competant, at least in theory.

We could also consider a system of primaries for electing candidates. This might weed out some of the less desirable candidates.

One seat constituencies, with Single Transferable Vote. Separate the Govt from the Oireachtas by requiring any Minister appointed from the Oireachtas to resign his/her seat (like they do in France).
What would be the point of that? Ministers need to be responsible to the Oireachtas surely?

Also I'd like to see a massive reform of local government.
Yes I agree with that also. We have far to many local authorities.

I'd also like to make voting compulsory (as in Australia). You must notify them if you will be away or do not want to vote so it acts more like an opt-out not to vote. The turnout there was 93.21% for this year's House of Reps elections and slightly higher again for the Senate ones.

I am sick of people who I know would never vote (heard an unmarried mother on it recently) bemoaning the government not paying enough towards their kids etc. or not paying for taxi's into school for them (seriously!).

I also think elections should be held either on Sundays or spread over two days - i.e. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The timing of the DSW by-election is typical FF, i.e. when students (most likely to vote against the government as they don't have the same tolerance of civil war politics) and those who might work outside the constituency are away.
Some good points there. I like the idea of compulsary voting too, although many people here would bemoan the fact.

How about scrap the Dail?
So who would run the country? You want anarchy? Or for Ireland to be the new Somalia? Who do you think would "step in" in the absence of a Government?


Sure.

So who would perform the training, and how would we decide what the TDs should be taught?

I can't see any constitutional issues with this at all. I'd be perfectly happy for some private, unaccountable training firm to have the constitutional right to shape the opions and behaviour of my parliamentarians.
Universities or I.T.'s. It would be compulsary for all new TDs. The sylabus could be decided by an independent body of experts in contitutional affairs, law and government. Why would it have to be a "private" firm, why would it have to be "unaccountable" and what way would it "shape the opions and behaviour of my parliamentarians"? Presumably they (the parliamentarians) have their own mind. In any case as oI envisage it its function would be to educate them in what is involved in governance pure and simple. It could also cover topics such as ethics in public office, time management, management techniques etc.
 
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Aindriu

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Jun 28, 2007
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8,621
My twopenneth is:


  1. Scrap the Seannad.
  2. An end to political dynasties.
  3. Appropriate ministers in departments i.e doctors in health, accountants in finance, lawyers in justice and teachers/lecturers in education. This will stop a reliance on the PS mandarins.
  4. Car pooling at all levels.
  5. End cars/Garda for ex Teaschigh/ministers/presidents.
  6. Slash TD/ministers salries by 33%.
  7. Slash their pensions by a similar amount and make them payable at retirement age - not when they leave the Dáil.
 

johndodger

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My twopenneth is:


  1. Scrap the Seannad.
  2. An end to political dynasties.
  3. Appropriate ministers in departments i.e doctors in health, accountants in finance, lawyers in justice and teachers/lecturers in education. This will stop a reliance on the PS mandarins.
  4. Car pooling at all levels.
  5. End cars/Garda for ex TeascAppropriate ministers in departments i.e doctors in health, accountants in finance, lawyers in justice and teachers/lecturers in education. This will stop a reliance on the PS mandarins.high/ministers/presidents.
  6. Slash TD/ministers salries by 33%.
  7. Slash their pensions by a similar amount and make them payable at retirement age - not when they leave the Dáil.
Previous experience has shown us that accounts in finance (like Bertie), teachers in Education (like Hanafin and Dempsey) and lawyers in Justice (like McDowell) don't always make the best ministers. If you're a bad accountant, teacher or laywer you're probably be a bad minister. Even if you're a good one, it's no guarantee you can do the job. It's all about management skills.
 


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