“…putting manners on the DUP means a huge jump towards voluntary coalition”

Brilliant as ever from Newton Emerson, on the likely terms of any upcoming ambitious negotiations (£): It is easy enough to see how Stormont should be tweaked to put unionists and republicans on a more solidly equal footing. The dreaded ‘deputy’ should be dropped from the title of deputy first minister, as Sinn Féin has long proposed. Petitions of concerns should be abolished (if the next election outcome does not make them redundant), committees should be opposition led – this … Read more

How to build coherent government when power is becoming more distributed?

Suddenly, so much to blog and so little time to do it in. This from Noel Whelan is well worth a few minutes of your time on the politics of stalemate… In particular, this minor note which hints at the larger at play here… When someone loses power it becomes obvious – one can literally see it drain away. Kenny is still in office, as caretaker for now, but he has lost power. Fine Gael lost the campaign and they … Read more

32nd Dail balanced between those with policies, and those without…

It is worth noting that yesterday – apart from the moment when after nearly 100 years the Irish Parliament finally earned the right to elect its own speaker – thereafter everything was very much the damp squib it had been predicted it would be. Or as me learned friend, Brian Greene, DJ, put it… Irish media spent a 3 week election talking horse race politics – now they will debate a photo finish pile up on the line for 6 … Read more

“real negotiations on a new government would not begin in earnest until after Easter….”

So the Dail is coming back on Thursday. Pretty much the only decision likely to be made on that day is the choosing of a new Ceann Comhairle. That will consist of two votes, the first a secret ballot to be held under PR STV then a concretising vote in the usual way. Favourite at the moment is Dublin Central TD Maureen O’Sullivan, although most of the established parties are expected to put forward their own candidates. Sinn Fein Ard … Read more

Seanad Eireann’s pivotal role in Irish Water bill makes case for deeper reform…

So, useless elite and out of touch is it? By a series of happy (or unhappy) accidents the government now has no majority in the Irish upper house. And by a further happy (or unhappy) accident the Seanad finds itself in a position to exercise real and substantial power of some critical amendments in an upcoming money bill. Gavan Reilly explains… …amendments are where things could get tricky. In the Dáil last week the government blocked amendments that many neutral … Read more

Ireland’s problem is the ‘dead-ending almost all policies before they even can be implemented’

Given the day that’s in it in Belfast, here’s a timely intervention from an Irish government backbencher on his own party’s failure to implement meaningful political reform: 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 … Read more

Irish Water: “Today, the mass of the people are making a comeback.”

I remember the day the Luas opened. Vincent Browne was fulminating furiously on the gross inflation of costs involved, asking the age old question of why no one in journalism was keeping an eye on these runaway baselines which culminated in a tripling of the final cost from the original estimates. It struck me as a good question always to keep in the back pocket when considering southern politics. So why, when all of the matters pertaining to Irish Water … Read more

Politics, reform and disbelief: “Imaginary patronage goes hand in hand with imaginary clients.”

Fintan O’Toole begins his IT column this week with a fundamental materialist question about political reform: If the Government is serious about ending the politics of patronage, it has to address two questions. What will politicians do without patronage? And how will voters respond to being told that TDs and ministers can’t get them favours in return for their votes? Yep, we don’t just vote people into office for the sake of some abstract moral imperative. We expect things to … Read more

How to get nominated for Seanad Eireann (in one easy lesson)…

Interesting insight into just how odd the electoral mechanism to the upper chamber in Dublin is, and just what an insiderly game the business of public appointments is. The Arts Minister, Heather Humphreys, has defended a decision to appoint Fine Gael’s Seanad by-election candidate to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) — without going through the public procurement process. John McNulty, a 37-year-old from Donegal, was appointed on September 12, just days before nominations closed. The … Read more

Seanad Eireann and an emerging consensus for functional reform?

So Seanad Reform? It hasn’t gone away you know!  Leaving aside the practical consideration of how progress is to be made in discussions of future reforms, on the table are five ‘live’ documents: Senator John Crowne’s Seanad Electoral Reform Bill 2013 (March 2013) Senators Zappone and Quinn’s Seanad Bill 2013 (published on behalf of Democracy Matters) Fianna Fáil’s A Seanad for the People (2013) The Green Party, Seanad Reform Policy (September 2013) Seanad Committee on Procedures and Privileges, Sub-committee on Seanad Reform … Read more

A real chance to promote Assembly reform must not be lost

  Just a reminder if you need it -and you can hardly be blamed if you have noticed. You have until 28 March to submit your proposals to reform the politics of Northern Ireland. The Assembly and Executive Review Committee is carrying out  a review of the GFA arrangements which is required by 2015. They are calling for evidence. This  could mean you. This task was once a concession to the DUP but is now legally stipulated. So the Assembly … Read more

Fine Gael need to get themselves a good public sector legacy on reform..

I’ve heard two angles on the issue of the over neglected issue of political reform… One, Brendan Keenan on Marian Finucane this morning suggested that since Fine Gael shows little appetite for anything other than rescuing the country from economic doom, Fianna Fail might use a rejuvenated reform agenda as a powerful ticket back to power and influence (if not actual government)… Noel Whelan thinks Fine Gael themselves need to pick up the reform ticket before it is too late … Read more

Sinn Fein’s human rights agenda for the Republic’s constitutional convention…

The Taoiseach is tonight to brief other party and group leaders in the Dail on the long promised constitutional convention; a review of the Republic’s ropey governance system. In fact not everything that needs fixing need bother the Supreme Court. Sinn Fein have been relatively quick out of the blocks to share their agenda, although it is remarkably short on taking a position on any of the matters the government has already set out. According to their presser, the convention … Read more

Politicians have to maintain the illusion there is no miracle they can’t perform

Events in Roscommon these past weeks show that politicians will never hesitate in making a step ladder of the people to get at a vote that could go to an opponent. The proximate political problem about the decision to axe 24/7 A&E at the County Hospital stems from the reckless promise made by the Fine Gael health spokesman Dr James Reilly to retain medical, surgical and other services, and to reinstate 24/7 A&E if necessary; and the fateful decision of … Read more

What if we ran reduced dHondt with a ninety seat Assembly?

All the news with the informal tweeted D’Hondt, along with Brian’s article on local democracy got me thinking what would happen if this election had taken place in the context of 90 MLAs and only 6 ministries being selected under D’Hondt. Hopefully this’ll provide enough intrigue to carry on ’til Monday when the ministers are announced! Before I go on, here is what I had to assume to write this: The 90 MLAs come from the same 18 constituencies, which … Read more

One Man One Vote… Err… Not In Belfast

Unionist votes are worth more than Nationalist votes, all thanks to 6 men staring down a hole! Just look at the following distribution though Belfast’s current District Electoral Areas: Victoria has an electorate of 25,814 and has 7 seats Oldpark has an electorate of 22,408 and has 6 seats Upper Falls has an electorate of 20,530 and only has 5 seats Pottinger has an electorate of 19,929 and has 6 seats Castle has an electorate of 19,494 and also has … Read more

Political reform ideas for a new era in Ireland

Political reform proposals are emerging thick and fast in the wake of the Irish election to try to ensure that never again will such an existential crisis catch the whole country unawares. For outsiders the process just beginning will provide a new and fascinating test  of the relevance of political reform to  profound real life concerns and rather than a dry as dust theoretical exercise for elites.  It is a relief to see that the debate so far avoids blue … Read more

Trench warfare, kamikaze style…

The Northern Ireland Executive’s trench warfare continued today with NI deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, issuing a statement claiming that the UUP and the SDLP “were lobbying for public money for their parties in talks with the British government in exchange for adopting an oppositional role in the Assembly.” Well, it’s a variation on his last claim, but the UUP are arguing of the need for a properly funded opposition by 2015. But the SDLP have denied Martin McGuinness’ claim, and they’ve issued a robust statement of … Read more

“Trench warfare has erupted…”

Via Newshound.  In the Sunday Times Liam Clarke welcomes the “trench warfare” the parties are engaging in over the Northern Ireland Executive’s draft spending plans.   Apparently, it’s better than the sectarian squabbling that went before…  ANYhoo…  From the transcribed Sunday Times article The eruption of public anger and megaphone diplomacy reflects the poisonous atmosphere around the executive table itself. McGimpsey needled the furious McGuinness by saying, “calm down Martin, don’t get so excited”. McGuinness and Robinson are both accustomed to … Read more