Fintan’s Enough is Enough petition is a better start for reform

Although no fan of Fintan O’Toole’s spasm of direct action, his headline political reforms are admirable. Once he’s won some support, he surely needs to transform the petition into a collective enterprise. Political reform is no solo run or quick fix. He will also realise he needs support from among those he has  been slagging off or he’ll not get very far. 

 For Irish reform, old ghosts should not inhibit a comparative analysis with the British experience. Ireland like Britain has also much to learn from other examples of the Westminster system like Canadian provinces and New Zealand. (browse the websites of the Constitution Unit and the Institute for Government).

A powerful Electoral Commission with greater powers than the UK’s is highly desirable, as is a wider FoI. These accord with similar reform processes in the UK, either achieved or debated. Parliamentary watchdogs have to be able to overrule TDs’ sense of entitlement and any lingering sense of unearned privilege and prerogative. Tribunal fatigue  should not be allowed to blight progress.

  The AM electoral system is no panacea – a lot depends on whether the parties are to be trusted or not. You can argue about women only shortlists but they undoubtedly give a jolt to the system.  Political funding is a nightmare. Nothing should inhibit full transparency but distrust of all politicians snuffs out smaller donations. In my ignorance, I don’t know whether the new combined responsibilities of the Central Bank are strong enough for the inevitably radically restructured banking sector. But the  Governor should be more than Frankfurt’s pointman and as the head of  Ireland’s  Financial Services Authority should also be accountable  directly to the Irish people and parliament .

Fintan O’Toole’s 10 points

No one paid from the public purse should earn more than €100,000 during the period of the emergency.

Real local democracy, paid for by local taxes, and using direct democracy at every level, must be established.

Change the electoral system that turns TDs into constituency fixers. Replace it with a mix of direct election and a list system similar to that used for the Scottish parliament.

Reduce the Dail to 100 members. Either transform the Senate within 12 months into a genuine forum for civic society or abolish it.

Stop the use of the guillotine system to pass laws that have not been scrutinised. Give Dail committees the powers to examine proposals for spending before it happens and to hold those who spend public money accountable. Make senior public servants responsible for their decisions and actions.

Cut public subsidies to political parties unless at least 30 per cent of their candidates are female.

Conduct an urgent review of company law to ensure that white collar criminals are brought to justice.

Ban all significant private donations to political parties. Make parties publish annual accounts. Register and control lobbyists. Protect whistleblowers.

Bring back the original Freedom of Information Act.

Make all appointments to State and public bodies open to public competition and Dail scrutiny. Ban any individual from being a director of more than three companies or public bodies.

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  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Im not a big fan of Fintan O’Toole either. He is the High Priest of the Irish Overclass.
    But God Bless him……last week he was appointing three people to be the government.
    This week a ten point plan for the Future.

    I take a more modest approach. The Future of Ireland is the responsibility of the People of Ireland. Without a meaningful Government/Opposition for the next several years then an opportunity arises for men and women of good will to discuss the future.
    A Forum even…..rather like the Dublin Forum of a few years back.
    There might even be symmetry in hosting it in Belfast.
    But to me….patriotism is not a dirty word, despite the inevitable quotation that such a declaration brings.
    So lets take the inevitable quotation as read.
    I think its inevitable that despite political differences……FF, FG, Labour, Green and Sinn Féin and independent members of an Dáil Éireann are patriotic in the better sense of the word. All are avowedly republican in the sense that they believe in the primacy of the Republic.
    As of course are Sinn Féin and SDLP in the North……and perhaps others.
    So there is at least a need to re-define the State. And now an opportunity.
    People of a certain age have lived to see the banks collapse, the main church (and krypto monarchy disgraced) and now the Nation itself laid low.
    The grieving process has still a distance to run.
    But inevitably it will be time to fight back.
    But the High Priest of the Overclass (O’Toole) is not the man to lead it.

  • Brid Gully

    I agree 100%

  • If point 2 was implemented in a proper fashion, point 3 wouldn’t have to be worried about because the councillors would tell them to mind their own business. Unfortunately, the old scheme of TDs being councillors at the same time has not quite worked its way out of the system, not least since these days councillors are merely sons and daughters joining the family business.

  • Share the pain/ spare the pain. Whilst I agree that no one shoudl earn over 100,000 I also believe that no-one earning less than €20,000 should have to take a 5% cut in salary. I particularly feel strongly that, as a school Principal I should not be put in a position to implement a cut in salary to lowest paid but most essential and skilled workers, secretaries and caretakers. Our secretary does our administration, accounting, organises timetables, orders materials, does first aid and has a very frontline and empathetic relationship with parents in our disadvantaged community. She has been in the school ten years, earns less than €18,000 a year, has no pension or sick pay.
    I shall not contribute to her further impoverisation or to pushing her out of the job.

  • We need people to join and work for better politics in Ireland

  • wee buns

    Reform the Senate by making it a national, strictly proportional representation (PR), election preferably d’Ondt but NOT any euroid List system. This will make it similar to the Australian system which rarely (twice since WWII ) reflects the lower, legislative, House of Representatives. This ensures that the nation as a whole directly elects the Senate, hopefully negating the party stranglehold on the Dail.

  • Sorry, I thought the requested website would show in comment
    This is it below.

  • Marcus O’Sullivan

    Excellent points. Still I think there are things that can be done short term, mid term and long term. Unless there is an all out revolution it means that the only way there will be radical change is to elect a group of people fixed on change. Not reform but complete overhaul.

    Successive governments have not only feathered their nests beyond the benefits available in most parts of the world but the political system has succeeded into fooling the country that we have a democracy with free elections. How can you have a fair election when some candidates (the incumbents) have a team of canvassers, paid for out of public finances competing with candidates without this unfair advantage (the new challengers). This is democracy in name only.
    The proposal I have is to have a reform movement not a party. This group would challenge the next election with a commitment to call a new election inside 24 months. The main task would be to execute the electoral reform e.g. reducing the number of TD’s needs a referendum. Therefore a referendum with this change plus others would need to be put to the people inside 12 months. The reform movement would effect more immediate changes upon getting a Dail majority. Without a majority reform will not happen. The sort of changes I propose include:
    TD’s to earn average industrial wage. Lets discourage career politicians and cases where politics is the family business.
    All expenses abolished immediately – Yes ALL
    Lets have TD’s that who’s first priority is the country and not their income and pension.

    To tackle the public finances deficit I would focus on expenses and not salaries/ wages. Very successful private corporations, making billions of profits annually do so by cutting out business expenses. It can be done. So the abolition of expenses would apply across the public sector.

    Finally this reform movement needs to be open to everybody regardless of their political party. However, to avoid anybody back tracking once they are elected and on the current gravy train they would have to sign a contract committing they would support these fundamental changes to our political system to be part of the reform movement.

  • Have a look at this;

    The Irish Liberal Party would fully support this initiative, it is indeed broadly similar to our own views on how to reform the Irish political system.