Independents and micro-parties

A veto over meaningful change

Sir, – Eoin Burke-Kennedy’s representation of the State’s planning system (“State’s woefully under-resourced planning system at heart of housing problem”, Business, Opinion, March 27th) prompts the thought that the parliamentary electoral system may be an influence on our chronic national “failure to plan to plan”.

It seems to me that you just don’t see infrastructural failures like ours, across planning, childcare, transport, environmental protection, forestry, etc, in democracies that use “list” electoral systems or a systems of proportional representation single transferable vote (PR-STV) with meaningful thresholds for participation in the legislature. In Norway’s PR-STV system, a threshold of 4 per cent seems to make the legislature a more effective provider of infrastructure.

Likewise Sweden, with a threshold of 5 per cent, exhibits higher-order outputs in infrastructure terms.

The threshold in Dáil Éireann is effectively two-thirds of 1 per cent, which may have the effect of decentering the focus of political effort considerably.


In 1982, we had four Independent or “micro-party” legislators; today we have 26, and the number will likely increase until we have at least one such for every constituency.

There are other forms of PR-STV available, arguably forms less damaging to our interests as a society, but the electors who seem to love the current iteration of the system very much wield a veto over any change.

This centenary year of our first peacetime general election might provide an opportunity to reflect on how effectively our parliamentary electoral system serves our infrastructure needs. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.