Will Fine Gael really turn the Oireachtas upside down?
We have given extensive coverage in this newspaper to Fine Gael’s radical policy reform policy, New Politics (see original story here).
Unsurprisingly, Fine Gael describe it as “most ambitious programme for political reform since the 1930s”.
Expect the following line, from the document, in Enda Kenny’s presidential address in Killarney next weekend: “Fine Gael, the party that created the State and declared it a Republic, will build a New Republic in Ireland.”
There have been some row-backs. The quota system for woman has been sent back to the drawing boards. And, as we reported this morning, the list system has also divided the party. A lot of its senior TDs don’t like it and don’t think it will work. While others, like Simon Coveney, think it has merit, especially if the Seanad is abolished.
But there’s lots more in there. Besides the obvious abolition of the Seanad, there’s the notion of a petition. There was a similar idea floated for Lisbon. To me, it smacks of lip service. Even if you get your petition heard at parliament, will it die a death there, like Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly’s report on the Lost at Sea scheme?
Interestingly too, Fine Gael confirms in the document for the first time that it will introduce water charges and other local charges to fund local government.
It also wants to give constitutonal status to four parliamentary committees and give committees the power to vet public appointments, such as CEOs of semistate companies, agency heads, and regulators. All in the name of restoring power to parliament.
The question is will it happen? My own impression is that Kenny and his leadership circle are determined to see it through (and that includes the list system).
There’s many a slip between cup and lip. I can see diluton happen. At the Constitutional Forum. I think Constitutional Day (the super referendum day when up to five questions are put to the people) will be pushed back and then watered down. There’s too much to do within a year. Some of the measures won’t be popular.
In addition, Fine Gael will have to compromise with their coalition partner (probably Labour) who will object to some of the more radical reforms, including possibly, abolition of the Senate.
And also what sounds great in opposition often begins to look less appealing when you are in government.
I’m not being cynical. But I will be surprised if half of the major reforms being proposed become reality in the next decade.