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Fine Gael’s New Politics

The much-anticipated New Politics proposals of Fine Gael, Ireland’s largest opposition party, have just been released and can be downloaded here. The proposals are extremely wide reaching and include numerous constitutional and extra-constitutional proposals, many of which we will discuss here on HRinI over the next few days once we’ve had an opportunity to digest the report. The overview follows after the jump.

Fine Gael’s website provides the following summary:

Fine Gael’s ‘New Politics’ plan is the most ambitious political reform package since the 1930s and will place the Citizen firmly at the centre of government, Party Environment Spokesman, Phil Hogan TD said at its launch today (Monday). 

“This comprehensive reform package contains the most radical proposals put forward by any party in 70 years. Fine Gael wants to build a ‘New Republic’ where a smaller, more nimble government is held to account, trust is restored in our democratic institutions and the concerns of the Citizen, rather than the elites are placed firmly at the centre of government.

“Fine Gael’s starting point is simple: political failure lies at the heart of Ireland’s economic collapse. The old politics does not work. Real, tangible change is needed and Fine Gael’s proposals will provide it. It is built on four principles:

  1. A Single Chamber Oireachtas.
  2. A New Dáil: Fine Gael wants toto expand the role and power of TDs so that they can truly hold the Government to account.
  3. Open Government: Trust in Government will be restored by opening it up to outside scrutiny and making party political funding more transparent.
  4. Empowering the Citizen: We want to shift the balance of power between the State and the Citizen so that local communities and individuals have more power over their own lives.

“Specifically, as outlined in ‘New Politics’, Fine Gael will:

  • Reduce the number of TDs by 20;
  • Hold a referendum on the abolition of the Seanad;
  • Provide a vote in Presidential elections for Irish citizens living abroad;
  • Reduce the President’s term from seven years to five;
  • Significantly strengthen Freedom of Information making it cheaper and easier for the public to receive information to which they are entitled.
  • Fortify the Dáil committee system to hold the Government to account;
  • Shift power from the Cabinet to the Dáil and reform the legislative process to give TDs real influence over the drafting of legislation.
  • We will radically overhaul our archaic Budget process.

“Fine Gael wants to put the Citizen at the heart of decision making and give people real influence and real power. Within its first hundred days a Fine Gael Government will establish a Citizens Assembly, along the lines of similar assemblies which have been used in Canada and in the Netherlands to consider political and electoral reform. It will have up to 100 members who will be chosen from the public to reflect the demographic make-up of Ireland and will play a crucial role in the development of the broad constitutional agenda.

“The Assembly will also be asked to consider how the representation of women in politics might best be increased. Fine Gael believes it is crucial that there are more female TDs and local councillors and will adopt measures internally to encourage this development at all levels in the electoral process.

“Of course, some of the Fine Gael proposals will require major constitutional change and, within 12 months of assuming office, Fine Gael will hold a ‘super referendum’ on Constitution Day, at which the people will be asked to approve a single chamber Oireachtas and changes to other articles of the Constitution covering the institutions of the State.

“This year, we also want to see two additional constitutional amendments to be put to a referendum on the same day of the Children’s Referendum. These would allow Judge’s salaries to be adjusted and would allow the effects of the Abbeylara decision to be reversed.

“Ministers should also never again be allowed to avoid responsibility. Significant changes in the way senior public servants and departments work are badly needed and Fine Gael will create a new Senior Civil Service where key officials can be employed across the public sector, wherever the need is greatest, and not just in one department. Each senior civil servant will sign a contract with their individual line Minister outlining in detail their areas of responsibility. This will allow senior officials to be held individually accountable for their performance in these areas. We will also ensure that there is greater involvement of senior personnel from outside

“Fine Gael is convinced that public confidence in government can be restored but only if there is real tangible change in the political system. The New Politics is designed to tackle head-on the major weaknesses in our archaic system of government, so that the huge policy mistakes of the last few years will not be repeated.

“We are not suggesting that political reform, by itself, is a panacea for all that ails our country. But we are convinced that political failure lies at the heart of Ireland’s economic failure. If we want to fix the economy, and return Ireland to growth and prosperity, we must also fix the political system.”

  1. Fergal Davis
    March 22, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    A strange document… On the one hand it is wide-ranging constitutional reform which may improve the role of the citizen within the constitution.

    On the other hand many of the reforms do not look like ‘constitutional’ issues. A constitution which would lay out the Committee system might make some sense but the committees which the report identifies as requiring constitutional protection has clearly been influenced by the immediate situation rather than any over-riding constitutional imperative: eg A Banking and Financial Regulation Committee.

    So I’m a little puzzled.

  2. March 23, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Agreed Fergal. Am still working through my thoughts on it, and unfortunately awamped with a paper deadline at the time same time hence delay in detailed response, but lots of matters seem more ‘of the moment’ than ‘of the constitutional structure’

  1. March 22, 2010 at 8:10 pm

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