Home > Fine Gael, Political Reform > Political reform proposals from Young Fine Gael

Political reform proposals from Young Fine Gael

Much later than initially intended, these are details on the proposals on political reform which were carried by vote last Saturday week at Young Fine Gael Summer School, on 9 July. Some themes run through these, of distinguishing clearly between the roles of elected representatives at a local and at a national level.

The most notable call was for the party whip to be relaxed for non-budgetary votes. This was to be on our agenda before Denis Naughton lost the whip for his vote against the government on Roscommon hospital, but the incident served as a concrete example in people’s minds. My own reasoning is that for debates in the Dáil to mean something, there should be times when those speaking should be trying to convince others, and genuinely hope to change their fellow TDs’ minds. There are times watching TDs traipse in to vote by party line on an amendment to a private members’ bill, and then by the same numbers on the new motion, that we may as well have trained monkeys to press the right button. With a government majority so large, this is the perfect opportunity to allow TDs have a say for themselves.

In an effort to strengthen the role of county councils, we passed motions calling for the abolition of town councils, and to remove the right of Oireachtas members to be treated as county councillors at a local level. The latter provision would clearly delineate the distinct roles of local and national politicians, and could be achieved simply by amending the Local Government Act 2003, deleting Section 3. It wouldn’t eliminate TDs acting locally, but it would reduce their capacity to do so.

A motion opposing the government’s proposal on gender quotas was carried. While the participation of women in politics in Ireland is incredibly low by European standards, t is a very blunt instrument, that does not address the deeper structural problems limiting participation. There are ways around it too, such as parties adding women to the ticket where there are already established TDs.

The only proposal that would require a referendum was to lower the age of office for all positions to 18. I can’t imagine a rush of young adults rushing to be elected, but throughout history, and in different countries, there have been those who have led at young ages, whether William Pitt, Michael Collins or Alexander the Great. As any candidate has to be nominated and seek a popular mandate, the constitutional bar seems unnecessary.

This is a full summary of the votes in this political reform session of summer school:

  1. Young Fine Gael believes that Town and Borough Councils should be abolished. – Carried
  2. Young Fine Gael believes legislation should be brought forward to outlaw members of the Oireachtas making official representations at council level on behalf of individual constituents. – Carried
  3. Young Fine Gael calls for the voting age for local elections to be lowered to 16. – Defeated
  4. Young Fine Gael calls for the electorate to the presidency to be extended to all Irish citizens, with voting in embassies and by postal vote across the world. – Defeated
  5. Young Fine Gael calls for a universal age of 18 for eligibility to serve in political office. – Carried
  6. Young Fine Gael opposes the Governments position on the introduction of gender quotas whereupon a political party will have its funding reduced if it does not have a minimum number of female candidates. – Carried
  7. Young Fine Gael calls for the whip system to be relaxed in the case of non-budgetary votes. – Carried
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  1. 19 July, 2011 at 5:34 am

    The point about removing TDs’ access to local government is well-intentioned, but would have little or no effect for most parties, and punish small parties and independents. Larger parties with a base of councillors could simply make requests via one of their team of councillors, quickly and easily circumventing the legislation.

    Independents or small parties, who might not have councillors in the relevant area, would thus be further crippled than they already are, and not have access to local material.

    Furthermore, while I’m not a fan of locally-fixated national legislators, TDs do and should have information about the happenings of local government, to enable them to discuss and deal with such problems (where they are general and not unique to their area) on a national level.

    • William
      19 July, 2011 at 8:11 am

      Actually, I think party colleagues are unlikely to be a source for TDs. A worrying fact I was told yesterday in relation to this idea is that local representations increased from TDs after 2003 because they were now competing against more local rivals. I’m not sure where this would leave the real-world implications of our proposal, but it is about specific representations to councils, not that they wouldn’t be able to keep in touch with them.

  2. Anthony McDonnell
    19 July, 2011 at 7:09 am

    My thoughts on this. Did they give an alternative to Genderquotas? If you look at how they’ve worked in other countries they’re normally very successful at increasing the number of female parliamentary members, and in most countries where they are introduced they are removed with in 10-15 years but the higher number of female politicians continue. My only problem with the government’s proposals is that the penalty for none compliance might not be sever enough. Might be better if they first introduced quotas on councils though, and tried to increase number of women in politics more slowly.

    I don’t care terribly about town and borough councils, though I do think the locals in small towns appreciate having councilors who represent their interest, and particularly with boroughs like Sligo they really aren’t very much smaller then some cities. Apart from saving money what was the argument here.

    Your right both about whips and about TDs making representations to local councils, if we did both of those things our political system would be significantly stronger.

    The idea of all citizens voting for president is an interesting one, I think its a symbollic role that it would be nice to have represent all Irish people, though given how I’m quite against letting expats vote in general elections I think we’d risk starting a precedent.

    I agree with you on the voting age.

    • William
      19 July, 2011 at 8:01 am

      Thanks Anthony. Gender quotas are something I could have been convinced of, especially had it just been the locals. I would like to have seen the government address try to some of the structural issues before taking this option. We didn’t propose a specific counter-proposal, just because the nature of the debate was a response to Hogan’s plan, but it now leaves it up to me and others to draft better ideas. If I remember rightly, it was one where there was quite wide support in what passed.

      As to town and borough councils, the arguments were two-fold. One is that the distribution of which towns have this double representation is based in historic population figures and that there are towns that on today’s figures should or shouldn’t have them. The second was to tie in with the idea of expecting more of our county councils, who could look after a town through an area committee rather than a specific council.

      On expats, tho the idea of a link is nice, and the presidency might feel a harmless office to give them a vote, I don’t think they can really get the feel of a debate and the candidates in the way of those in the state.

      • Anthony McDonnell
        19 July, 2011 at 11:24 am

        Having researched it quite heavily for a presentation, I now quite strongly support some kind of quotas. They never need to last longer then about 10 years and they do seem to permanently change the culture of women in politics. Also except for Sine Fein and Labour, Irish political parties efforts to bring women into politics are shockingly bad.

        I don’t know enough about town and borough councils to judge, but the first argument is only an argument for updating what downs get what. Town area committees seem like a good idea. However they lose something nice by having things like their own mayor and internal political dynamics. You’re probably right but I’d need to know more and would be interested to see what most people living in towns think. Am less sure about Boroughs though.

        If we could do it without massive costs and guaranteeing limiting it to the presidency I think I would be fine with it. They may miss out on a lot of the debate but if they’re going to go to the trouble of voting then they’ll probably try to learn a little about whats going on over here, which could be good. It becomes a problem

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