Irish coalition deal

Ireland’s new Government of National Recovery, as the coalition consisting of Fine Gael and Labour is to be called, took office Wednesday.

The coalition agreement* begins,

On the 25th February a democratic revolution took place in Ireland. Old beliefs, traditions and expectations were blown away. The stroke of a pen, in thousands of polling stations, created this political whirlwind. The public demanded change and looked to parties that would deliver the change they sought.

Among the commitments regarding political reform is to abolish the second chamber (Seanad), subject to voter approval in a referendum (p.18).

A Constitutional Convention is to be established. It will consider several amendments, including reduction of the presidential term to five years “and aligning it with the local and European
elections” (p.17).

Also included are plans to restrict campaign spending, consideration of lowering the voting age to 17, and working to increase the representation of women. “We will ask the Constitutional Convention, which is examining electoral reform, to make recommendations as to how the number of women in politics can be increased,” it says (p. 20). No guidelines about what sort of electoral reforms might be considered are given.

There are a series of proposed reforms dealing with legislative procedure, including more time for question periods, fewer committees but with constitutional recognition for key committees, and more opportunity for debating non-government bills (pp. 21-2).

* It can be downloaded at the Fine Gael party website.

4 thoughts on “Irish coalition deal

  1. It seems like Ireland is following after Iceland in doing major constitutional reform.

    Is it a good idea to abolish the Seanad? Would it be better to reform it? Ireland is a tiny country and might be better off without an upper house. How should it be reformed?

    I hope that Ireland doesn’t get rid of STV.

    Didn’t Romania abolish it’s upper house in a referendum?

  2. Yay for (at least considering) dumping the Senate! I’m currently on a 1-man mission to see Japan do the same. IMO, bicameralism has its virtues, but it’s often more trouble than it’s worth if there’s no compelling second basis for representation. I’m certain there isn’t one in Japan – what about Ireland?

  3. If you have a proportional representation assembly, it really does not seem to me that a second chamber has much function. federations may be an exception, although a Bundesrat is the more obvious federal chamber than a senate.

    The Seanad has never been a great success in terms of independent legislation, review or scrutiny, and if they organise the assembly properly the review and scrutiny function can be done a lot better by parliamentary structures within the assembly itself.

    It’s interesting how badly the intellectual movement known variously as economic rationalism, neoliberalism, etc etc does once it is squarely before an electorate.

  4. The Seanad doesn’t seem to do a great deal. IMHO, Ireland would do better with a unicameral assembly where a large minority of MPs (say) 40% can delay a non-budget bill until a referendum, or new election, has been held. Denmark offers a promising model.

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