THE REFORM ALLIANCE will be holding a public Reform Conference in the RDS from 10am – 4.30pm today. Myself and the other members of the Reform Alliance: Lucinda Creighton TD, Denis Naughten TD, Billy Timmins TD, Peter Mathews TD, Senator Paul Bradford and Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, thought it vitally important that a national conversation took place regarding much-needed reform across a number of key areas in Ireland. Although our group is sponsoring the event, it is the panel participants and the audience that will play the pivotal role in this important discussion.
We, in the Reform Alliance, are very much aware of the widespread and growing frustration with the slow pace of reform that has been undertaken by the Government. Following the inefficiencies and wrongdoings of the previous Fianna Fáil administration, all political parties made promises before the last general election that they would right the wrongs of the past and work to regain the electorates’ trust by addressing the culture of corruption that has blighted politics for many years.
So far, reform has been slow in the many areas it is needed. The Conference is happening at an interesting time when the extortionate pension payments at the CRC and the huge payments to Irish Water consultants have been exposed.
Although the Reform Conference will specifically look at the three largest areas in need of urgent reform, which are; politics, the economy and health, the recent publicised scandals will be forefront in peoples’ minds on the day.
Perhaps the biggest cause of concern to Irish people is the state of our health service. There have been many attempts at reform in recent times, but costs continue to soar and patients continue to experience a level of service that is unacceptable in a modern country. The HSE ran over budget in 2013, to a total cost of over €13.5 billion, and it is clear that more needs to be done to tackle spending. We are very much looking forward to the audiences’ suggestions for reform of the health service, many of which will be based on personal experiences.
The electorate remains disaffected with the political system and many do not feel that there is enough transparency in politics. Some steps have been taken by the Government to address this. However, fundamental reform of how politics works in this country has yet to take place. Many people have lost faith in the Irish political system and every step needs to be taken to try and restore this faith in the electorate.
An open discussion regarding Economic Reform is especially important, as we need to ensure that we are doing all that we can to generate employment and to stop our young talent from emigrating and taking their valuable skills elsewhere. In recent years too many people have felt that there are no opportunities available for them here. This must stop and the Economic Panel will discuss reforms that will foster enterprise and create the jobs needed to rebuild the economy.
We have invited those attending the Reform Conference to submit their own reform ideas, as we recognise the need to open the discussion to new and interesting contributions from the public. For far too long politics has been seen as a ‘closed shop’ and we want to make sure that those in attendance are given the chance to contribute meaningfully to the debate.
We are hoping that as a result of the Conference people will become more engaged in a national conversation regarding the need for change in these areas. It is also hoped that our group will have a more far-reaching awareness of the thoughts of Irish citizens regarding the important issues that are currently affecting us as a nation. We aim to return to our Constituencies to host smaller regional meetings to build on implementing these ideas and we will put them to the Government to help bring about real change.
Terence Flanagan is a TD for Dublin North-East
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