Micheál Upsets the Apple-Tart (stet)
Deaglán de Bréadún
Not really sure about this Fianna Fail proposal that ministers should cease to be serving members of the Dail. They would be substituted from a list of alternates in the same way as Members of the European Parliament when they retire, etc.
Micheál Martin’s basis for putting it forward was that it would free-up ministers to concentrate on their portfolios. For example, the Enterprise Minister could spend more time abroad searching out investment.
It might have certain merits in that respect, but it will go down badly with ordinary voters, in my opinion. They will not be impressed at the prospect of unelected individuals getting Dail seats with, presumably, the same salaries and expenses as other TDs.
This looks like lead balloon territory.
At the moment, a Taoiseach can appoint members of the Seanad to the Cabinet but it hasn’t happened since Garret put in the late Jim Dooge as Minister for Foreign Affairs back in the 1980s.
Now Micheál Martin wants to extend this to other members of the public, similar to the US system. He believes this would create a healthy dynamic between the Dail and the Government.
That may be true but, again, will the Irish electorate wear it? Becoming a minister is a Big Job and the culture of this country militates against choosing those who have not taken the hard road of nomination through canvassing to election. Mind you, if you are a member of a political dynasty it might not be such a hard road.
A college professor or an industrialist might, in fact, prove to be a very good minister and he or she would be less likely to steer State projects and finance towards the home constituency base. That would be a plus.
On the negative side, it would give the Taoiseach of the day even greater power in the choosing of a cabinet and the influence of parliament would be reduced.
It is not apparently proposed that the Taoiseach would be substituted in the Dail – although that is not spelt out in the FF manifesto, published today.
Having said all that, it was good to see a leader of the party which has been ensconced in office for more years than anyone cares to remember taking an interest in reform and putting forward fairly daring new ideas.
Is there really such a hunger for political reform among the public? From what I can make out, they will settle for competence and hard work and are not that worried about the electoral system if it produces people who can supply those commodities.
Bertie Ahern would have called this, “upsetting the apple-tart”.