Election 2016 – political deadlock or a unique opportunity for change?

 

Sir, – We get what we deserve, or so the cliché goes. I had great hopes to “deserve” another Dáil with progressive-minded, hardworking and committed TDs, such as Aodhán Ó Riordáin, and others, who worked tirelessly on behalf of people disadvantaged and discriminated against. To not recognise their worth in Ireland in 2016 is hugely disappointing. – Yours, etc,

SILE BOYLE,

Maynooth,

Co Kildare.

Sir, – Mary Minihan (“Where have all the liberal TDs gone?”, Analysis, March 1st) is right to ask why liberal-minded TDs lost their seats. Perhaps, as a society, we still retain a certain conservatism, tolerance and respect for difference. The abortion issue is emotional and many may be uncomfortable with those advocating a British-style abortion regime, while still recognising the existence of hard cases. But it is surely not good for politicians to sit on the fence on important policy issues. Ironically, those parties now most reluctant to be part of any government have done best, while others, such as Fine Gael, Labour and Renua, have fared worst. – Yours, etc,

FRANK BROWNE,

Templeogue,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – At a time when we are trying to help our young people deal with cyber-bullying, it is shocking to read that some adults are prepared to hide behind anonymous tweets to hurl abuse at recently defeated election candidates. What kind of message does this send out to our young and what way is society heading if this behaviour is deemed acceptable?

We live in a democracy that by definition allows for the pursuit of different ideologies and the expression of varied viewpoints. For this, we should be grateful. We are under no obligation to concur with viewpoints that are different to our own but we should at least have respect for the people that hold them. We have had our election and the people have spoken. The onus is now on all our elected politicians to try and form a government. This will require courage and compromise on all sides, but if the process is to work our TDs will need to show respect for each other. – Yours, etc,

ANNE MASSEY,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – It’s gratifying to see Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is pushing for Dáil reform but why the silence on Seanad reform? Those who fought to retain the Upper House couched the case for change in specific, achievable reforms. Three Bills, including one from Fianna Fáil, showed how a more active, assertive and representative Seanad could be created by changing the law rather than the Constitution.

Speaking on his party’s Bill in Dáil Éireann in February 2014, Mr Martin said that “the people demanded reform (in the referendum) last year and we have the duty and ability to deliver it. To fail to act, or to do the minimum possible and move on to other issues, would be an act of political arrogance which would reinforce the growing public disillusionment with the failure to reform Irish politics”.

In failing to mention Seanad reform, Mr Martin is already showing worrying signs of a return to type and the tired old politics that triggered an earthquake in 2011 and a tsunami in 2016. A genuine political reformer would demand equal billing for Dáil and Seanad reform in a programme for government. – Yours, etc,

KEALAN FLYNN,

Galway.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole states that “The troika deal, largely implemented by the government, took €30 billion out of the economy” (“Election shows recovery in our collective sense of decency”, March 1st).

I think he misses the point. The €30 billion was not there in the first place. It was simply borrowed money and we, Ireland, were at, or close to, the limit of what would be lent to us. We could not spend our way through the recession because we had just spent our way through the boom.

Nobody argued that what is referred to as “austerity” would cause growth – it was simply the case that we had to reduce to accommodate our altered circumstances and that when we got things balanced, we could move forward again. Nobody said it would not hurt. We had to reduce our borrowing, and/or increase our taxes, and/or cut services. None of these things puts money into the economy – they just alter who has the power to spend it.

The government chose a mixture of all three. The election result would suggest it balanced this quite well in that all parts of the electorate are equally unhappy with it and no dominant thought as to what would have been better has won through.

The fair winds outside the control of the government that have helped us along have, in fact, undone the government as they also given strength to the argument that the cuts could have been smaller. With hindsight, they could have been. The big mistake the outgoing government made was that it failed to balance equally the restoration of services and the reduction of taxation in its message to voters. – Yours, etc,

LEO LAYDEN

Rush,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – In light of the recent election, and given the fact that neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael seem willing nor disposed to forming a coalition at the time of writing, it is fairly clear that our antiquated system of selecting a government via the parliament is well and truly past its sell-by date.

Should the imperfect nature of the separation of powers as it exists under our Constitution be revisited? Perhaps, and it is only a suggestion, we should have three ballots in a general election – one for the head of government (chief executive), one for head of the parliament (chief legislator), and a third ballot for the election of ordinary members of the Dáil.

I believe this would redress some of the obvious shortcomings in our current imperfect model, which has enabled the executive branch of government to subsume the parliament through the whip system, and denude ordinary members of the parliament from fulfilling the constitutional role for which they are primarily elected – namely, to make law.

A new constitutional arrangement whereby the head of the government is directly elected by the people would have many advantages over the present system. First, and most obviously, it would directly involve the electorate in deciding who should be the chief executive. Second, it would provide certainty as to the result. Third, that office holder would still be accountable to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Moreover, a separate office of chief legislator could be established to replace the current offices of Ceann Comhairle in the Dáil and Cathaoirleach in the Seanad to oversee the legislative process and serve as a bulwark between the executive branch of government and the legislature. In which regard, the executive would be precluded from ramming legislation through the Oireachtas through the whip system or, worse, the practice of using the guillotine to short-circuit debate on important pieces of legislation that affect the rights and interests of the general public at large. – Yours, etc,

NIALL NELIGAN,

Lecturer in Law,

Dublin Institute

of Technology,

Aungier Street, Dublin 2.

Sir, – We, the electorate, have given our politicians the opportunity to have the most consensual government in the history of our State, and one in which the executive will not be able to ride roughshod over parliament, as has almost always been the case in the past. Is our political class mature enough to grasp this historic opportunity? – Yours, etc,

DENIS MORTELL,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – Michael Healy (March 1st) asks if there is anything less edifying than successful Dáil candidates acting like idiots in their celebrations. There certainly is, and that is when these same people wrap themselves in our national flag and behave in a manner more reminiscent of fans at Italia ’90. Even Donald Trump would not demean the Stars and Stripes like this. – Yours, etc,

CHARLES DALY,

Abbeyside,

Dungarvan, Co Waterford.

Sir, – One factor being overlooked when analysing the swing against Fine Gael in the recent election is Brian Hayes’s mid-Atlantic twang. During the campaign, for example, he made frequent mention of the “Fine Gael pardy” and “the other pardies” as well as the “fordy constituencies”. Maybe I’m over-sensitive but I found it teeth-gnashingly irritating. Should his political career ever go belly up, Mr Hayes would have a great future in pirate radio. – Yours, etc,

BRIAN AHERN,

Clonsilla,

Dublin 15.

A chara, – As someone who took part in the collating of the tallies in the Citywest complex on Saturday last, I can safely say that this was a enjoyable and rewarding experience and gave an insight into how our electoral system works, warts and all. I did notice a serious lack of young people at the count. Could I suggest to all our school principals, especially those who have transition-year students, to encourage them to come along to these counts and perhaps work with the presiding officers to make this a regular experience in local, European and national elections. It would be a rewarding learning experience and would help show students how our elections work. – Is mise,

PAUL DORAN,

Clondalkin,

Dublin 22.

A chara, – Michael Healy-Rae has a point when he refers to those “smart alecs above in Dublin”.

After all, how many times have we seen Independent TDs from the country being ruthlessly duped into various deals with these “smart alecs” within the establishment parties in return for future unwavering support.

Of course, while the TDs in question is promised a number of projects for their constituencies, working-class people within these constituencies then go on to bear the brunt of the policies of these government parties, policies which have crashed the economy, wreaked havoc on the lives of ordinary people with austerity measures that have vindictively punished them for the excesses of the wealthy, and forced thousands to once again seek economic refuge abroad. So, while one hand giveth, the other taketh much more away.

However, I’m sure the Healy-Rae brothers will be too smart for that sort of carry-on. – Is mise,

RODDY KEENAN,

Stoke Heath,

Bromsgrove,

England.

Sir, – A deep depression is centred over Government Buildings and is stationary. – Yours, etc,

DENIS J CROWLEY,

Raheny,

Dublin 5.

A chara, – The Irish government 10-year bond yield is 0.911, while for Greece it is 11.59. This means that Irish people can continue to enjoy the health and welfare services they want, even if they are unwilling to pay for them. Irish elected politicians, highly paid by EU standards, have a duty to form quickly a government in order to protect this favourable borrowing regime. Should they fail to do this before the Easter Rising centenary commemorations, it would be a shameful neglect of their national duty. Further, should any future Government narrow the tax base by the abolition of water and property taxes, then Ireland will be back on the road to a bailout. This time, however, the IMF and the ECB would be far less sympathetic. And who could blame them? – Is mise,

PAUL KNEAFSEY,

Coventry.

Sir, – “Paddy” needs to know if we will have a stable government to keep the recovery going. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL C O’CONNOR,

Waterford.