Restoring Democracy to the people…?

In advance of a think tank’s report on the health of Irish democracy Vincent Browne issues his verdict – it stinks! He recites the shotrcomings and undemocratic instincts of politicians in power (subs needed), and makes his own modest proposal: that the Republic be subject to elections every second year and that no politicians be allowed to stay in either chamber for more than two terms. Hmmm, the only party he seems to neglect for its part in the Republic’s poor public accountablity is the media.

Mr Browne’s proposal:

As a means of involving a far larger cohort of citizens in the political process, I propose that nobody be entitled to stand for election if they have been elected twice previously and that there be Dáil elections every two years. Yes, I know this will mean you won’t have “experienced” politicos in the Dáil, that the civil servants will ride roughshod over these innocents abroad, that the “wealth” of experience built up by politicians who have been at it for years will be lost to the nation. That two-year parliaments will be awful for it will result in continuous election campaigns. I know.

But, he argues:

…it will mean that over, say, a 20-year period there will be some thousands of people who will have served in the Dáil, who will have had a direct engagement in public affairs. That would mean a lively public debate among serving Dáil members, past Dáil members and future Dáil members, all with some direct experience of involvement in decision-making. A new political literati.

  • peteb

    Oh yes.. elections every couple of years.. or perhaps even more often.. I mean, that’s a sure-fire recipe for democracy to flourish… isn’t it?

    [/sarcasm]

  • Henry94

    Could we have a similar system for newspaper colmnists so we don’t have the same people re-hashing their opinions and riding their old hobby-horses decade after decade.

  • Keith M

    One of the major problems at the moment is that no government is prepared to get really stuck into long term strategic planning, knowing that they won’t see the benefits come election time. This kind of propsal would only make this worse. Ask Australians what they think of their system (they go to the polls far more often than most countries).

    However I wouldn’t be overly dismissive of the idea of blooding more new talent. I would start by introducing a limit of 20 years in the Dail. This may not seem too radical, but over half the current government would not be in power. It would also limit the still powerful political dynasties that are far too common in this country.

    Other changes I’d like;
    A small number of TDS (120 max).

    Regional constituencies (in line with the Euro Parliament ones) with TDs being elected by D’Hont on a list system with a 5% threshold.

    Either do away with the Seanad (preferred), or allow everyone to vote in elections to it.

  • Valenciano

    Keith , problem. On the one hand you suggest a term limit – stating that you are against political dynasties , on the other you suggest adopting the one electoral system of all those available which often makes it utterly impossible for people to vote out those that they dislike. With list systems party toadies get rewarded at the expense of more independently minded MPs – want to vote the toadies out? Impossible without voting against your preferred party. Result : super safe seats for party hacks with all the attendant corruption that goes with it. What a horrible idea.

  • Occasional Commentator

    Keith M,
    I concur with Valenciano on the dangers of any list system. The current system in the Republic isn’t too bad.

    However, I’d like to have more TD’s (at least 300), not less. With more MPs there’s a bigger chance of having some people who know what they’re talking about on any given issue, especially when it comes to choosing people to go on Committees? Does the Dail have a similar Committee system to Westminster? A small number of legislators just makes it more likely that they will form a cosy little family.

    More elections are a bad idea. It would make some people more apathetic, it’s hard enough to get them to pay attention a few weeks out of every 4 or 5 years.

    But most of all, I don’t believe that having younger and less experienced TD’s will do anyone any good. It can take a long time for a TD to learn what’s possible and what’s not, and how best to do it. If you want something done, an experienced old person is still your best bet. The Cabinet that set up the NHS were quite old. Contrast this with Blair’s youngish cabinet that will go down in history for doing very little other than being OK managers.