Sweeping changes advocated by Reform Alliance

Group launch policy document but decline to say whether they intend to form new political party

A file photograph of Reform Alliance members who launched a policy document today. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

A file photograph of Reform Alliance members who launched a policy document today. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 18:36

Sweeping changes in the political system are advocated by the Reform Alliance in a policy document launched today.

However, the group of TDs and senators who left Fine Gael declined to say if they intend to form a new political party.

Key elements of the plan include ending the rigid whip system, frequent rotation of Ministers, the linking of politicians pay to average private sector earnings and the abolition of Ministerial pensions.

Roscommon TD Denis Naughten who chaired the policy launch said that reforming the whip system and bringing more accountability to the budget process was essential.

“At the moment we have four men who are making decisions that affect the entire country, these decisions get rubber stamped by cabinet, and then rammed through the Dáil.

“We believe that every member of the Oireachtas should be given full access to all spending and taxation choices that are being considered in each department well in advance of the budget being announced,” he said.

Mr Naughten said the party whip system as it currently stood was strangling creativity, and entrenching the group think which the Nyberg report identified as a key cause of our economic collapse.”

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames said it was time politicians’ pay related to their performance.

“During the boom times, Ministerial pay increased at a rate 10 per cent higher than the average earnings in the private sector. This should never be allowed happen again. Politicians’ pay should only be related to measured performance in the economy and society.

“If the economy, health or education indicators are falling, then TDs and senators should feel the pinch as well,” she said.

Wicklow TD Billy Timmins TD said a regular turnover of Ministers was an essential part of reforming our democracy. The plan advocates that Ministers should not be allowed to serve in cabinet for more than one term plus two years.

“We have seen in the past that it is the same faces just shuffled around the cabinet table, rather than introducing new thinking and new talent.

“Imposing term limits for Ministers and ensuring independent expertise at the cabinet table would significantly reduce the risk of group think which is so bad for decision making,” he said.

Dublin North East TD Terence Flanagan said there was a need for transparency in public funding of politicians.

“Every year political parties receive almost €13 million but despite commitments to publish audited accounts, this has not happened. We want to see a legal obligation on all those in receipt of public funds for political purposes to publish detailed audited accounts,” he said.

Mr Flanagan also said political parties should not retain funds for members who are no longer part of their parliamentary party.

Senator Paul Bradford pointed out that there is no constitutional prohibition on giving every Irish citizen the right to vote in Seanad elections.

“Seanad elections should be held at the same time as Dáil elections and the election should be conducted on the principle of a single vote for every citizen.

“People should have a direct role in the election of members to Seanad Éireann. The Seanad can play a full and legitimate role in Irish democracy,” he said