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Seven Questions for New Fine Gael

March 23, 2010 5 comments

Yesterday, Fine Gael published their 101 page document, ‘New Politics’, setting out what they consider to be “the most ambitious programme for political reform since the 1930s’. For the non-constitutional scholars amongst our readership, 1937 saw the adoption of Bunreacht na hÉireann, the Constitution of Ireland that remains the only between-World Wars European constitution to still be in force today. As such, Fine Gael’s claims for their New Politics is a grand one. We have previewed the publication of this document (here, here, here, here and here) and will offer some thoughts over the next few days. The document clearly merits detailed engagement and as such, I won’t attempt a full analysis here. Rather, after the jump I will ask seven questions of New Fine Gael and their New Politics. Read more…

Constitutional Revolution 3.5: Fine Gael Debate Today

March 20, 2010 1 comment

This afternoon, the Fine Gael National Conference will debate the party leadership’s proposals for political and constitutional reform in Ireland. The reforms, which we discussed previously (here, here and here) would include:

– the abolition of the Seanad;

– a new “list” system for selecting 15 TDs;

– new constitutional recognition given to four Dáil committees;

– reduction of the President’s term of office from seven years to five;

– the introduction of a public petition mechanism for the Dáil.

Expect to see lots on this in the press in the coming days and some more substantive analysis here at HRinI once we have the full Fine Gael proposals to hand.

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German Data Retention Decision: Early Analysis

March 16, 2010 Leave a comment

The latest issue of the German Law Journal contains what may be the first academic analysis of the Bundesverfassungsgericht decision in the data retention case – previously discussed here. The article, entitled ‘Pitting Karlsruhe Against Luxembourg? German Data Protection and the Contested Implementation of the EU Data Retention Directive’ by Christian DeSimone offers a historical overview of data protection in Germany and a discussion of the adoption of the Data Retention Directive and its implementation in Germany. There is also some brief discussion of the BVerfG decision. As no English translation of the decision is available to date, it is not possible to comment on the usefulness of the analysis of the BVerfG decision. However, the article contains a beautifully succinct comment on the reasons for the adoption of the EU law as a Directive rather than a Framework Decision: “The politics of legislative process trumped legal orthodoxy”. The article is available for free and the full citation is [2010] 11(3) German Law Journal 291.

Blasphemy Law for Repeal?

March 15, 2010 6 comments

A small piece in yesterday’s Sunday Times appears to have passed the Irish media relatively unnoticed. Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, has claimed that he will seek a constitutional amendment to remove the requirement for a criminal law of blasphemy in Ireland.  Atheist Ireland are re-reporting a Sunday Times story quoting the Minister as saying that he will advocate that the referendum be held at the same time as the vote on the children’s rights amendment and an amendment to establish a permanent court of civil appeal. Fiona previously wrote about the law here.

Constitutional Revolution III: Further Thoughts on Process

March 15, 2010 7 comments

As weekend readers will know, we had some discussion on Saturday of the Fine Gael proposals to hold a ‘Constitution Day’ within 12 months of entering Government which would see five reforms of the Constitution to declare a ‘New Republic’. Yesterday I made the point that piecemeal constitutional reform for electoral rather than principled reasons (or at best half-thought-through principled reasons) has resulted in a failed process of reform in the UK – eg in relation to the House of Lords. I argued that any serious overhaul of the Constitution would have to take account of the need for a complete system of government. Today, I will look at three further factors that might scupper Fine Gael’s efforts at serious overhaul (bearing in mind that this is regardless of the merits of the proposals themselves): coalition government, the referendum mechanism and the need to embed constitutional change. Read more…

Constitutional Revolution II: The Dangers of Piecemeal Reform

March 13, 2010 20 comments

Last year Fiona asked if constitutional revolution in Ireland was nigh: Fine Gael were proposing several constitutional amendments; an amendment on Children’s Rights was in the works; and the Bill of Rights debate in Northern Ireland had reignited the question of an All-Ireland Charter of Rights. Now, the Children’s Rights amendment has been published (see Our Symposium) and the Bill of Rights debate continues but is mired in the malaise of British politics (see Colin Harvey here and myself here). Today Fine Gael announced the publication of a new document, New Politics, which calls for a ‘Constitution Day’ within one year of their taking office in Government Buildings to allow the public to consider five new constitutional amendments.

These are:

– the abolition of the Seanad;

– a new “list” system for selecting 15 TDs;

– new constitutional recognition given to four Dáil committees;

– reduction of the President’s term of office from seven years to five;

– the introduction of a public petition mechanism for the Dáil.

Read more…

Death of Juanita Goggins

March 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Juanita Goggins, the first black woman to be elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives, has died aged 75. Goggins, who was living alone at the time of her death, is believed to have died earlier this year on February 20. The exact date of her death is unknown as she was not found until earlier this month. At the time of her death she was living without heat or running water and was believed to be suffering from mental health problems.

Described by both the New York Times and Guardian as a ‘trailblazer’, Goggins claimed a number of firsts in the 1970s. In 1972 she was the first black woman to represent South Carolina at the Democratic National Convention when the Democratic Party nominated George S. McGovern for President. She was also the first black woman to be appointed to the United States Civil Rights Commission and was twice a guest at the White House under President Jimmy Carter. She was educated and subsequently taught in the segregated school system before making education and public health centerpieces of her political platform when she took public office. Having been elected three times, Goggins resigned her seat in the South Carolina legislature in 1980 citing health reasons.