Government now more likely to opt for procrastination than action on reform
Opinion: Simple legislative changes could improve the Seanad at a stroke
Richard Bruton will do more flapping around on the new powers of Oireachtas committees, while dodging the issue of control of such committees the Government will continue to exercise through the whips.
There is a great deal of necessary reform which will never even be addressed. For instance, it is obvious that there is a widespread indifference to what happens in politics and a great swathe of the electorate is alienated from the process. And it is no wonder. People, justifiably, feel they have little or no influence over what happens.
They are allowed a vote every four or five years and a choice between one crowd and another, each of whom will do exactly the same as the other would do if elected to office. The big decisions – eg, the bank guarantee, EU-IMF bailout – are taken by this political class over the heads of the people.
The State’s first constitution had a provision for the people insisting on referendum on whatever petitioners thought was important. Why should the people be denied a similar power, including the power to initiate constitutional change?
If more people were directly involved in the political process, the electorate would be more informed. For instance, if there were term limits on service in the Dáil or Seanad – say two three-year terms (no more than six years) – over a period of 30 years more than 1,000 people probably would have been through the system and would be a valuable community resource.
It would also mean that more people would be willing to serve a single term in the Oireachtas and then return to their “ordinary” lives.
Electronic voting would also help, allowing voters to register their constituency vote in any polling station by inserting their voting card in the polling computer which would automatically upload the relevant ballot paper.
We could transform the gender representation in politics by providing for elections on a two-list basis, one of women, one of men, with an equal number of each being elected for every constituency.
There might also be a vibrant local democracy – with town and village councils, each with meaningful powers. And a transformative reform: getting rid of ministers, all of them, forever. But that’s for another day.
But none of this will happen, until there is some catastrophe that propels us into a violent change at enormous personal cost to very many people.
God save Ireland.