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Micheál Martin will hope to come out fighting when his party unveils its plans for political reform later today. Julien Behal/PA Wire

Parties to lay out proposals for political reform

Fine Gael and Labour will outline their plans for political reform, while Fianna Fáil will unveil its overall election manifesto.

DEBATES ON POLITICAL REFORM will dominate election proceedings today, as the three main parties unveil their suggestions for overhauling Ireland’s political system.

Fine Gael – which has already announced many of its plans, which include the abolition of the Seanad – will unveil a comprehensive version of its plan today in Kilkenny, while Labour will release its own plans for reform at its HQ in Dublin.

Fianna Fáil, however, is understood to be pursuing the most intensive reform agenda, with the Irish Times reporting that the party’s plans will include the removal of cabinet ministers as TDs, to be replaced in the Dáil by a pre-nominated substitute.

The party says that while ministers would still attend Dáil sittings and participate in debates, they would be freed up to concentrate on their ministerial duties if another person was attending to constituency issues.

Under the plans – many of which would require a constitutional referendum to introduce – the Taoiseach would be allowed to appoint people from outside of the Oireachtas to ministerial positions, with the idea being that the best-qualified people could be put in charge of departments.

The Dáil would be comprised of both elected local representatives and appointees of political parties elected through a ‘top-up’ national list, and would sit for business hours from Monday to Friday (the Dáil currently only sits from Tuesday to Thursday).

Presidential elections would also be reformed, with emigrant citizens being given a vote and candidates being eligible for nomination by petition, while polling for presidential and other elections would be extended over two days to maximise turnout.

Fine Gael, meanwhile, will confirm its own plans to abolish the Seanad – a preference shared by Labour – and to reduce the number of TDs by 20, and instead concentrate on improving the operations of the Dáil.

RTÉ News says it would allow, for example, for debates on certain matters to be held before a Bill is compiled, in order to incorporate ideas from all parties when new laws are being written.

Referenda to put its plans into action would be held before the end of 2011, the party says, alongside the referendum on the rights of the child and the presidential election.

Labour’s plans include the holding of a constitutional convention to examine potential amendments to modernise the document, and would give the Dáil a veto on appointments to the boards of state entities.’s rolling opinion poll, which has been live for three days now, sees Fine Gael consolidate its position as Ireland’s most popular party, though its lead over Labour is just over six per cent – a lead stretched in polls elsewhere.

Almost 7,000 people had voted in the poll at the time of writing.

Vote in the nationwide poll > is part of the Distilled Media Group.Journal Media Ltd has shareholders – Brian and Eamonn Fallon – in common with Distilled Media Group.

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