Time for a new form of government?
Sir, – “Three strikes and you’re out!” is a rule in one sporting endeavour. The Dáil has now failed on three occasions since the general election to elect a taoiseach. More than 50 days have passed without a taoiseach being selected; this surpasses the previous mark of 27 days set in 1989.
Perhaps it is time to consider not just forming a new government, but also a new form of government for Ireland. A parliamentary system can give rise to long gaps between a general election and establishing the next government. After Portugal’s October 2015 election, it took politicians 53 days to form a coalition. Spain held a general election in December 2015 and no decision has yet been reached. Belgium may hold an unwanted record – going 541 days between its 2010 general election and a coalition agreement.
If voters in Ireland could directly elect a taoiseach, in the same voting manner as electing a president, this could avoid deadlocks in a fractured Dáil. Candidates would be nominated by political parties, or groups of Independents; voters would mark their ballot in the current transferable vote system. This would create an executive as a separate element in the overall government structure.
The popularly elected taoiseach would have the authority to appoint a cabinet of government ministers, and could select non-members of the Dáil who have experience in the field related to the particular ministry. Having a knowledgeable professional heading a ministry would be preferable to selecting a politician who might have to learn on the job. The tánaiste would be a member of the Dáil.
The popularly elected taoiseach would still be answerable to the Oireachtas, and would have to obtain approval for the cabinet (ministers would be in an acting capacity until approved) and seek support for proposed legislation and the budget. Any successful no-confidence vote against the taoiseach, or a loss by the taoiseach on approval of the cabinet or the budget, would trigger a general election involving the taoiseach and the Dáil.
Government for the people serves best when it is government directly created by the people. – Yours, etc,