10 Apr 2009
Nobody – not even The Two Brians; not even The Two Brians if they were natural born blonds; not even The Two Brians if they were natural born blonds and members of an enclosed order of nuns – nobody, absolutely nobody in this country  believes that the Irish Government is capable of achieving anything at all in any sphere of activity whatsoever. For example, in our self-esteem-challenged "open economy", every Irish man, woman and child realises that only

a) the next big thing to come out of the United States and

b) a visit from Barack Obama to County Offaly, during which all sorts of dubious honours will be bestowed upon him and grovelling guarantees made regarding favourable tax rates for mid-tech American companies prepared to take up space along the M50,

will bring any kind of improvement to our unemployment mess.

Unfortunately, there are no obvious fixes for any of the other messes our government has made (banking, health care, planning and transportation amongst them) and it is this, the peculiar awareness that we are not capable of doing anything meaningful for ourselves which accounts for the especially helpless air that distinguishes the current Irish recession from the recessions of our neighbours. You see, when all else fails, the British, the French, the Germans and the Americans can still believe in the structures of their governments while we, in contrast, wander about unencumbered by that comfort.

So, what then have we got lose by opting for a spell of emergency government (we’ll find another names for it) during which time we establish, at the very least, the following reforms?

    * A directly elected Seanad (two Senators per County?) with the same powers to legislate as the Dail currently enjoys.

    * An all-party committee system for generating legislation.

    * A separation of Executive (in other words, the Cabinet) and Legislature, with powers to enact legislation passed by the Oireachtas vested in a real President.

    * A reconstituted Local Authority system with sufficient powers devolved to local communities to permit them to build their own schools and crèches as well as provide care for their own elderly, generate their own Development Plans, pave their own streets and generally do all those things which grown up people living in communities are capable of doing without a massive central government finding ways to frustrate them.

We’d lose nothing at all from introducing these few changes. Radical as they may sound to the Irish ear they would represent little more than a greater alignment between our system of government with those of most of our western counterparts (the exception being Britain, whose system stands out as being different from everyone else’s and forms the basis of our own). Furthermore, other people – American bond rating agencies in particular and Germans in general – might begin to have greater faith in our ability to manage our affairs, and that would be no bad thing. But the most important gain would be that we ourselves, free of the stress which comes from suffering under incompetent authority, might, once and for all, discover the dignity of living in a properly structured democracy.

Saturday, April 11, 2009 2:10:03 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Interesting comments. It strikes me that much of the level of incompetency of the Government exists also in the Local Authorities so much would need to be done to clean them up to make the desired effect happen. However, with the potential for accountability that exists nowadays (but is still a far way off in this technologically constipated country), a decentralization of power might just work.

How many times do we need to vote FF back in before we finally get the message "lads we're taking the piss have ye not noticed yet or are ye looking for more in which case we'll be more than happy to oblige."

The time has come for the electorate to set the agenda, not the DJs with the 80s Greatest Hits Collection that sit in Dàil Éireann. I agree that the constitution of the Seanad is a joke and needs a complete democratic overhaul. It's ludicrous in 2009 that anyone would be deprived of a vote. Voting age should be 16.

Well done for bringing up these topics and aren't you only marvellous on d'telly

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 6:22:20 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I'd largely agree. Leave local matters to a properly financed local level by ceding power from the centralised agencies. It'd make June's elections a sight more relevant. But then I don't think the results of same will exactly be propelling the current government headlong into a devolution shake-up.

Then let a scaled-down Dail and at least half of the Seanad each be universally elected on the basis of a series of (the same) amalgamated current constituencies or local authority areas (one or other) - essentially at level of Regions/City Regions of sufficient scale (at least 400,000 population approx - much higher in Dublin)to serve purpose and to remove the blind allegiance to the County which should be left to the GAA alone. This should be on a list system to prevent the woeful clientalist cult of the "personality".
The Dail would sit nationally and legislate on national matters and be precluded from unduly interfering locally (for fear of a turf war). Such a direction might be called "governing" or "leadership" (they do it in other countries).

The newly-democratised Seanad with scaled down "appointments" and "panels" (i.e. vested interests) would offer a more representative and robust second opinion on legislation (esp. of EU origin), need for referenda, major state appointments etc. Such panels as remain would include one for local councillors (possibly a limited return of the dual mandate)to provide a degree of coherence between levels and, frankly, to try and keep local government honest.

Radically the directly elected Senators could also devolved to serve a more hands-on role for each (City)Region under the administration of a 5-year term directly-elected Mayor with proper governance (and planning) responsibilities.

I'd also align as best as possible the Euro constituencies (which are a bit arbitrary in some cases anyway) with amalgamations of these (City) Regions - e.g. 4 seater Southern Ireland to consist of South-West (incl. Cork City Region), Mid-West (incl Limerick CR) and South-East (incl. Waterford CR); 2 seater Western Ireland being the West (incl. Galway CR) and North-West; 4 seater Dublin & Eastern Ireland (Dublin and surrounding counties incl. Louth); 2 seater Mid-Ireland (Midlands & East Ulster).
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