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Political Reform

Parties unveil plans for overhauling political system

Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour all lay down their plans for reforming Ireland’s political system and culture.

IRELAND’S THREE biggest parties have spent the morning outlining their plans for political reform, as the second week of election campaigning got underway.

Cutting political expenditure formed the main plank of Fine Gael’s plans, with retiring members of cabinet having their severance pay abolished, while ministers would also be denied pensions until they reach the national retirement age.

Unveiling its New Politics programme for political reform in Kilkenny this morning, the party said it would insist that all TDs’ expenses are vouched, and cut the salary of the Taoiseach to €200,000 a year – with the wages of other ministers falling on a similar basis.

It also pledged to allow emigrants vote in presidential elections, with the franchise being extended to the general election and other ballots if it proves practical.

A comprehensive Dáil reform, meanwhile, will see backbench TDs given power to introduce their own Bills, committees being given full powers of investigation, and introducing legislation in a new ‘bare-bones’ framework to allow committees deal with them on a non-partisan basis.

‘Weighted majorities’, where a simple majority of TDs would not be enough to pass certain measures, would also be considered.

Among the party’s other promises were the earlier declared intentions to abolish the Seanad and reduce the number of TDs by 20, to 146.

Fianna Fáil, meanwhile, has outlined plans to enable governments to appoint ministers from outside of the Oireachtas, with TDs – where they become ministers – giving up their seats and being substituted in the Dáil.

Launching its manifesto in Dublin, Fianna Fáil said that whether elected as TDs or Senators or appointed from outside, ministers would be entitled to participate in debates in the Dáil but would not be allowed to vote in divisions.

Fianna Fáil also propose a Citizens’ Assembly which would develop reform proposals before any referenda are brought.

Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael propose to ban corporate donations to parties, and to lower the maximum amount that an individual can donate to a party.

Labour, meanwhile, said it would establish a Constitutional Convention of experts to draw up an entirely new Constitution.

It also proposes the abolition of the Seanad, and says the Dáil would sit for more days and longer hours if it was in power. It also seeks to devolve more decision-making powers to local communities.

Labour also wants to impose new spending limits for all elections, and put limits on party spending for the six-month period in advance of elections.

Appointments to public bodies, meanwhile, would require ratification by the Dáil, while the party also wants to repeal amendments to the Freedom of Information Acts which it says have neutered the law.

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