Political reform and the way in which our political system works has been a very hot topic in the General Election so far.
Those who are standing before us for election have been very quick to say that the sytem is broken and they know how to fix it. In fairness many have been saying this from opposition over the past year or so but now there is a frenzy to rip it up and start again. It is not the right time to make such important decisions.
Slash the number of TD’s to 120! Let’s just ignore the fact that our ratio of representation to population is actually governed by the constiutution and is broadly in line with averages across Europe. If you remove the voice of the people further away from the actual political process is that really a good thing? Ask any Tunisians or Egyptians that you know.
Get rid of the Senate! TD’s are falling over themselves to slash the cost of the Oireachtas by removing the second chamber. The second chamber that is which acts as a brake on the wildest excess of executive government, which allows time for reflection a little further removed from the grandstanding of local political needs.
Abolish severance payments to Ministers! Micheál Martin bowed to public vitriol on TV3 this morning by saying no Fianna Fail ex minister returning to the Dáil would claim their payment. On a political level this was the same leader and the same channel that little more than two days earlier had brow beaten Eamon Gilmore over blowing in the wind of public opinion. It is a gesture that is hard to argue with but it also tramples the rights of working people, I know, I know, who entered into a contract of employment and are now having their right to an agreed remuneration taken away. Is that the screech of metal sharpening in unscupulous boardrooms as the leaders of the nation set a precedent?
Democracy is a real pain to administer. Government of the people, by the people for the people was much easier in Abe Lincoln’s day but it is worth the effort.
Most importantly when changes are implemented in the way in which democracy works they should be fully considered, well thought through and stress tested to breaking point to flush out difficulties that will arise from them.
A general election is neither the time nor the place to make rash promises about how we the people are governed. Call a convention by all means, bring in the best and the brightest. Let the options be put forward by those who understand politics on a macro scale, beyond the need to win votes and popularity.
That would be a much better way to conduct the debate over the future way in which we reach decisions.