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Posts Tagged ‘Fine Gael’

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…

Fine Gael’s New Politics

March 22, 2010 3 comments

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. 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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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…

Fine Gael promises to ‘stamp out’ Ireland’s sex and slave trade

November 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Fine Gael Immigration & Integration Spokesman, Denis Naughten TD will tonight bring forward a Private Members’ Motion which aims to address the issue of trafficking of women and girls through and to the state in the service of the sex industry. The full text of the press release is here. You can find more information on Fine Gael’s immigration policy here. It includes a policy statement on human trafficking. The Immigrant Council of Ireland has a wonderful collection of resources on the Irish approach to human trafficking here, the IHRC provides information here, and you can find details of the government’s anti-trafficking policy here and here. The image at left is the logo of ‘Blue Blindfold‘; a European G6 Human Trafficking Initiative, of which Ireland is a member. Fine Gael promises that its scheme will eliminate sex trafficking by:

• Moving the focus on human trafficking from Garda National Immigration Bureau to the Garda Organised Crime Unit;
• Ending the policy of placing victims of human trafficking in asylum centres and introducing independent accommodation, support and protection services. NGOs believe that in some instances traffickers are targeting asylum seekers hostels and identifying women and young girls who they attempt to lure into a life of prostitution;
• Extending the ‘period of recovery and reflection’ as defined in the Immigration, Residency and Protection Bill 2008 now before Dáil Éireann;
• Extending the remit of the Department of Justice’s Anti-Human Trafficking Unit to include migrant women in prostitution;
• Establishing a High Level Group to examine our prostitution laws with a view to preventing the proliferation of sex trafficking.

The press release goes on to say that ‘our law currently provides for a defence in court to prove that they did not know that the person was trafficked. However, a new law for the UK will bring a provision of direct liability into force meaning that ignorance to the fact an individual was sex trafficked will not be defensible in court.’ This seems to refer to provisions of the Policing and Crime Act, 2009 which criminalise the purchase of sex. The Guardian has a good collection of UK resources on human trafficking here. The Dignity Project (a joint initiative of the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Dublin Employment Pact) has also urged the introduction of legislation which would criminalise men who buy sex.

The press release further says that ‘[t]he reality is that unless we adopt a decisive and practical approach to protection and support systems, victims will not come forward to Garda authorities. This is fundamental to securing convictions against those directly involved in this trade, and objective which every political party supports.’ Ruhama, the organisation which works with women who have been exploited for sex, has criticised the government for not ensuring that protection is offered to as many victims of human trafficking as possible.

Is Constitutional Revolution Nigh in Ireland?

November 8, 2009 9 comments

constRecent weeks and months have seen a seemingly endless stream of proposals emerge for constitutional change in this jurisdiction and reading today’s Sunday Times I noticed that Enda Kenny—the leader of Fine Gael and quite likely to be Ireland’s next Taoiseach [Prime Minister]—has now added another proposal to the list: that the President’s term would be reduced to five years. As far as I am aware we are now in the midst of a number of debates with constitutional implications:

  1. The Fine Gael proposal for the abolition of the Seanad
  2. The Fine Gael proposal for the reduction of the Presidential term
  3. The commitment in the renewed programme for government to hold a constitutional referendum to recognise the role of parents in the home rather than that of mothers and wives (I blogged about this here)
  4. The commitment in the renewed programme for government to hold a constitutional referendum to introduce a Court of Civil Appeal
  5. The debate about a constitutional amendment on children’s rights (about which Aoife blogged here)
  6. The renewal of the debate around a Charter of Rights for the Island of Ireland as contemplated by the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and under consideration by the Joint Committee of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Irish Human Rights Commission

There may even be more proposals than this floating around, but these are the ones that come immediately to mind. Other matters have arisen recently for discussion where the government has committed to pursuing a particular course of action in order to avoid the perceived need for constitutional reform; I am thinking here in particular about the Civil Partnership Bill 2009 (about which we blogged here, here, here and in a guest contribution from Andrew Hayward) and the inclusion of a crime of blasphemy in the Defamation Act 2009 (about which Colin blogged here). In addition, there may be developments in the near future that will require us to at least consider whether constitutional reform would be appropriate in other areas such as the right to life of the unborn, depending on the outcome of ongoing litigation in the European Court of Human Rights (about which Máiréad blogged here).

This is beginning to look remarkably familiar, especially to people who took an interest in the constitutional reform programme undertaken by New Labour since their election in 1997 which involved, among other things, the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the creation of the UK Supreme Court. The Irish Constitution will celebrate its 75th birthday in 2012 and as that time quickly approaches one is tempted to ask whether the momentum towards constitutional reform is essentially a push towards retirement for the Constitution as we know it. What is particularly interesting to me, however, is that Enda Kenny seems to be especially prone to recommending constitutional change and the abolition or reform of constitutional offices and institutions without necessarily reasoning out his proposals particularly well. In fact, they smack somewhat of populism, which is disappointing to those of us who might generally welcome a change of government in the near or medium future.

The fact that we have the great privilege in Ireland of amending our Constitution by means of popular referendum means that there is always a risk of the introduction of populist referenda. Indeed, the Citizenship Referendum would, in my view, have fallen into this category. The introduction of a constitutional discourse into election-related canvassing and the promise—as Kenny has made—of a package of reform being put to the people for referendum within one year if Fine Gael goes into government carries a serious risk that constitutional reform, which should be principled and reasoned and framed by considerations of necessity and of whether the constitution is fit for purpose, will become an electoral pledge resulting in populist referenda and enormous constitutional change that is insufficiently reasoned.

There are arguments for the kinds of constitutional reform that Kenny has suggested, however there are also arguments against same or for other alternatives. The Constitution ought not to be up-for-grabs in a general election, not least because fundamental rights rarely fare well in populist discourses and referenda. Constitutional reform needs a far more reasoned process of debate and consideration than can be afforded within an election (or ‘election ready’) milieu.