Fine Gael needs to commit immediately to loosening the grip that government holds on Dáil Éireann.
This means, as a starting point:
- A declaration that the whip will only apply in stated instances and that all other votes will be free, including the order of business.
- Establishment of an independent Oireachtas budgetary office and new budgetary committee to allow independent costing and debate of proposals from TDs.
- Dissolution of the Cabinet Economic Management Committee (which was arguably necessary during the bailout arrangement) and restoration of the constitutional role of Cabinet.
- Acceptance of the principle of secret ballot on the election of Ceann Comhairle.
- Division of speaking time in the Dáil between members, not between parties and groupings.
The resistance by some in Fine Gael to meaningful change of our political culture has been demoralising. A commitment has been given that whip reform will be looked at after the next election. Not good enough. The culture must change now.
Eoghan Murphy is Fine Gael TD for Dublin South East, who’s unafraid of the party whip (you can follow him here on Twitter). It’s good and small but important and implementable stuff.
They certainly don’t address broader problems of atomisation within the electorate which is shredding the electorate’s core belief in representative democracy, which as my colleague John Kellden has suggested leads to a ‘dead-ending of almost all policies before they even can be implemented’.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty