10 (relatively cheap) things that would make Irish politics work better.

1. Abolish the Seanad, reduce the Dail from 158 to 120 seats, and reduce every county council to between 7 and 15 members, depending on population. We can use the money we save to fund the following:

2. Elect a full-time executive mayor and County Ombudsman in each county, paid the same salary as a TD. The mayor will have the the power to direct the county manager. The County Ombudsman will deal with social welfare issues, etc. Both are barred from seeking election to the Dail in the immediate election following their leaving office. Neither can contest Dail elections whilst in office. Civil servants will be barred by law from dealing with individual cases raised by TDs.

3. Make election manifestoes legally binding, with elected members capable of being personally sued for up to half their salary if they do not deliver on the specific promises in them. You’ll see candidates pay real attention to what goes into their manifesto.

4. Issue every voter with an annual statement as to how much they pay in tax, what they receive, and what proportion of their taxes are spent on what.

5. Allow 100,000 ratified voter signatures trigger a referendum at the next general election to amend the constitution, except on spending.

6. Introduce term limits for politicians of no more than four terms.

7. Elect the Dail based in constituencies allocated according to the month one is born. Overnight, every TD is a national TD with constituents in every city and parish in the country. Each constituency must ensure that 40% of the members elected are a different sex from the remainder.

8. Directly elect the Taoiseach and allow him/her to appoint the cabinet. Bar TDs from holding seats in Cabinet.

9. Ban All political donations, and require the Revenue Commissioners to contact every voter every year offering to make a €10 donation to the party/candidate of their choice.  

10. Merge election and referendum commissions into an independent Voter Information Agency with a statutory obligation to analyse and evaluate for accuracy party manifestos.

6 thoughts on “10 (relatively cheap) things that would make Irish politics work better.

  1. I agree with Luke re #2 – if you are going to have directly elected mayors then they should be doing the job of County Managers, which should no longer be needed.

    Re Luke’s Comments on planners – most planners are not architects because they are urban planners – these are two very different professions, as recognised in almost every other western country, bar Spain. Urban planners are trained to do a very different job, involving development control (which I believe to be mostly a waste of their valuable time and resources), and researching and planning for local development (an invaluable public service). High quality work is often produced in the latter case, but mostly ignored by local councillors who make the important decisions regarding zoning and spending. Where I have seen such work tendered out to the private sector it is often produced to in-house generic templates that are often shoddy and ignore the importance of local nuance in terms of planning.

  2. Hi Jason,

    I do like some of these points, although #2 is just adding another layer of pointless positions to an already bloated local government. #9 is nice, but the admin required would be greater than the €10 donation. I would add another point baring job hopping an election seeking, something all parties are guilty of, the European elections are a joke with this regard, especially since when a MEP steps down, the outgoing MEP can pick anyone they want to take their seat until the next European elections – not very democratic (Joe Higgins [S], Alan Kelly [L]).

    In point #1 can you explain why we need a local council at all, and why a central county council can’t serve the entire country? To many Irish people this is the most corrupt and wasteful level of government. What is the purpose of 29 County Councils offices in a country with a population of only 4.6 million people.

    County Councils:
    The level of planning permission granted is boarder line corrupt, as noted during the crazy planning zoning of the boom, and the endless stories of people be refused planning permission (with no accountability) for no apparent reason. Also note that most planners in county councils are not trained architects, and their is a habit of planners not signing documents with their name, making appeal difficult.

    They are terrible at providing, planning, improving and maintaining local infrastructure and services, this should all be tendered to a private sector company.

    We have mass duplication of common services like car tax, this should all be processed online at a central facility by a private company (tendered again). If someone needs to see a car tax representative in person, an extra charge should apply. This would also remove the corrupt system of car tax dodgers who skip ever 3 months of car tax.

    Limerick City and Limerick County CC offices are within 3 miles of each other, crazy. Why is Co Tipperary split between north and south with a combined population of 158,754 – this is a population smaller than Co Donegal which has only one CC.

    Jason, can you do an article that outlines what exactly a county council does and services is provides to the citizen. Also what is the purpose of an elected councilor? I really do not know what they do and what their purpose is in the world.

  3. #4, #5, #6 and #10 are great, btw.

    Although a 20 year limit could be fairer than 4 terms, since you could in theory have 4 12 month terms in a row during a time of instability. Having said that, your way would encourage stability!

    Also if someone wasn’t made a minister by the end of their second term, they might just resign. Which is no harm.

  4. I don’t see #3 being practical.

    I’d like to get voters to read the manifestos though. I really think the small parties would do a lot better, seeing as how they tend to actually have ideas.

    So the manifestos, I think, should be submitted to your Voter Information Agency and then reprinted without photographs and fluff and mailed to each voter. A simple task.

    On the notion of holding people to a manifesto.. I often find that voters tend to project what they think is, or ought to be, in a party’s manifesto, if you know what I mean. Especially in hindsight. Also the issues change over the 5 years. Think about, nobody in the 07 election put “I shall not guarantee the debts of our banks” into their manifesto, and yet people feel “betrayed” by those who voted for it. Should they feel this way, given it wasn’t in any manifesto? Meanwhile every party promised a carbon tax, but only the Greens got the credit/blame for that.

  5. Rather than merely ban political donations, I’d criminalise (the taking of) them.

  6. Re: number 5. Wouldn’t we just end up with an abortion referendum (and potentially two conflicting ones) on the ballot at every general election?

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