Friday, February 12, 2010

Political resignations – are we missing the point?

Politics is a frustrating game, the art of politics even more so. The Irish political system is in need of radical reform yet its low standing with the public means there is very little debate about how we fix it. The departure of George Lee has divided people; some see him as a hero who was not prepared to be cannon fodder for a party while others see him as petulant and unprepared for the hard slog. Maybe the truth is somewhere in between.

What is undoubtedly true is that the Irish political system is badly served by ‘parish pump’ politics. The political system is dominated by special interests, corrupted by clientelism and dynastic politics, and resistant to change. The Oireachtas has consistently failed to exert sufficient scrutiny over the government and public bodies, and its composition reflects neither the talents nor the diversity of our people. A political system which is a carbon-copy of the British model, largely unreformed since partition, does not equip Ireland to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

In this blog I offer some of my own views and not necessarily those of the party. I do so to initiate debate and to think outside the box. We need to find ways of strengthening the capacity of the legislature to hold Government to account. This has to involve fundamental reform of the Dáil, the Seanad and local government. I would give consideration to the introduction of a list system to elect a proportion of TDs. While the direct election of the Taoiseach may be an idea too far, why not allow the Taoiseach to appoint cabinet members based on their expertise in relevant areas rather nominating them from among members of the Oireachtas. This will have its pitfalls and the danger of political patronage is obvious but it is surely worthy of debate. I would also like to see a cull of QUANGOs and unelected bodies to cut back on waste and improve transparency and efficiency in decision making.

The question we must ask ourselves is this – are our political institutions the vehicles that fully reflect the values, aspirations, talents and ideas of the Irish people? I say no. While my ideas may not be popular, even within my party I offer them as a basis for discussion and debate. After all that is what politics is all about.

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