Dáil Éireann must set about taking back control over its own affairs…

Noel Whelan has been looking over the new reforms at Westminster, and approves of the new rebalancing of power between parliament and the executive and wonders if Ireland could learn from those reforms:

MPs approved procedural changes, which will mean that for the first time in over a century parliament will take control of its own agenda.

The changes require the new parliament to establish immediately a backbench business committee to set the parliament’s agenda for 15 days of each session. The MPs also approved a proposal establishing a general house business committee in the new parliament to be comprised of one third government representatives, one third opposition frontbenchers and one third elected by backbenchers of all parties. It is envisaged that this group would ultimately set the parliamentary agenda for all non-ministerial business.

These may sound like technical changes but together they will dramatically increase the independence of parliament from whatever government is elected in May. By taking the power to appoint chairs and select committee members from the party leaders and whips and giving it to backbenchers in a secret ballot, the capacity of those committees to hold ministers and public servants to account will be significantly enhanced.

By restoring to itself the power to set its own timetable and agenda, parliament will have brought about a significant rebalancing of the relationship between it and Whitehall.

One of my colleagues on this US trip noted that one of the abiding criticisms of the Irish system was not that it was derived from the British system, so much as it has failed to evolve since independence. Given the how the expenses row of the kind ignited by the Daily Telegraph in England, has barely begun in the Republic.

Whelan, concludes parliamentary reform is a no brainer, “taking back control over its own affairs is something Dáil Éireann should set about doing now.”

  • aquifer

    Poor opposition is a big part of the problem in ROI, anything that helps to challenge the incumbents could help get better government.

    Interesting that Westminster is considering the Alternative Vote, a party proportional system that is not all constituency based.

    The link with constituencies wastes representatives time dealing with local rather than national matters, when plainly matters such as the national regulation of the finance sector and the disproportionate growth of the building sector needed attention. No TD could ever campaign for less building in his constituency, even though nationally it was a nonsense, with over a hundred thousand empty homes and some housing sites now worth more as agricultural land.

  • Interesting that Westminster is considering the Alternative Vote, a party proportional system that is not all constituency based.

    You have that backwards – AV is a non-proportional system that is completely constituency-based. It is equivalent to STV with a quota of 50%+1, so that one member gets elected per constituency. AV is often combined with a party-list top-up system (such as in Scotland) to try to make the results more proportional.

    The danger with removing a constituency link is that individual judgement becomes less important, and we get apparatchiks instead of representatives. The parish-pump problem arises because local matters are dealt with at national level, therefore only TDs have the clout to get things changed. If local councils were properly empowered, then councillors would be the natural people to deal with local issues.