John Carroll, in querying my post about term limits, has raised an interesting point. Why does the taoiseach need to be a member of the Dail? The gut instinct is to say that it is democratic, but that doesn’t make sense. How does the fact that 8,000 voters elect a fella to represent, say, Leitrim, give him a democratic mandate to run the country? It doesn’t. It is the Dail, made up of 164 other elected members that gives him a democratic mandate to be taoiseach, and it is the Dail that removes him.
Imagine the possibilities for parties if they could just nominate a candidate before the general election who would be their candidate for taoiseach. The voters would know that voting for party X is a vote for Y as taoiseach, and there’s your democratic mandate there. If FG nominated a candidate for taoiseach that Labour would not accept, that’s fine. That just becomes an issue that people take into account when they vote. But it would allow parties to broaden their choice of leader, and prevent the FG 2002 “Enda because everyone else is (politically) dead” scenario.
Of course, why stop there? Maybe we should just cut to the chase of having a directly elected taoiseach, an appointed cabinet, and a seperate Oireachtas that legislates. Would we have a taoiseach who doesn’t have a majority in the Dail? Almost certainly. Where’s the harm in that? That the opposition would just block everything? Really? Including the budget? No they wouldn’t, because after a while the public would start to get irritated at 166 TDs just blocking everything. They’d negotiate with the executive, and give and trade, or have the taoiseach dissolve the Dail on the issue of its refusal to negotiate. Opposition TDs would have power, and the Dail would end up acting like a parliament, funnily enough. Is that really such a bad idea?