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Dail Reform

Lead letters published in the Irish Times in 2003 and 2008 identified twenty-two ways to improve the effectiveness of the Dail/TDs and restore public confidence in politicians. In listing them below, I am not claiming that they are optimal or comprehensive - they are offered as a starting point for "root and branch" reform which is urgently needed but proceeding at a glacial pace.

  1. The Dail's annual holidays should be only 4-6 weeks. Normal office hours should apply from Monday to Thursday with Fridays reserved for constituency work and clinics.
  2. The number of TDs should be rationalised - one TD per constituency is adequate.
  3. All expenses and allowances paid to TDs should be accounted for in the same way as applies to the self-employed.
  4. TDs should have the same tax allowances as all other workers or self-employed persons. Tax certificates should be supplied before taking a seat in Dail and every year thereafter. No cert, no seat.
  5. No double jobbing as TDs are paid to do full-time jobs. Earnings from nixers and consultancy work should be used to reduce Dail salaries.
  6. Official transport should only be used for official business. Unofficial or party use should be reimbursed to the State.
  7. TDs should have the same pension entitlements as most working people and should be eligible for redundancy payments when they lose their seats.
  8. The productivity of TDs should be tracked by the quarterly publication of their attendances and speaking records in the Dail and at committees.
  9. The Dail's effectiveness should be monitored in terms of sitting days, bills proposed & passed and output of committees.
  10. Backbenchers should have greater flexibility in respect of Dail contributions and votes. Free votes should become the norm rather than the exception.
  11. If backbenchers cannot become more active and productive in the Dail, their hours of work and pay should be scaled back.
  12. There should be greater public accountability of TDs' performances via annual public meetings with constituents.
  13. To ensure that TDs have real mandates, elections should be rerun if fewer than 50% of the electorate in their constituencies cast votes.
  14. The long overdue Ethics Bill should be passed into law.
  15. Legislation should be introduced to protect all whistle blowers in lieu of the current patchwork sectoral approach.
  16. Changes and charges relating to Freedom of Information should be rolled back and its coverage broadened.
  17. More powers should be given to Dail committees to conduct investigations along the lines of the Public Accounts Committee.
  18. A Dail Committee should be established to confirm all significant Government appointments to State boards etc.
  19. Ministers should be precluded from signing non-essential orders or making appointments once an election has been called.
  20. Obvious flaws governing donations to politicians before and during elections should be eliminated.
  21. Recommendations from the Standards in Public Office Commission should be implemented.
  22. The accounts of political parties should be audited and placed in the public domain.

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3 Comments

"Root and branch" reform which is urgently needed the country is BROKE and reform is needed yesterday.

Taking each of your points one by one I would make the following points

1.The Dail's annual holidays should be only 4-6 weeks. Normal office hours should apply from Monday to Thursday with Fridays reserved for constituency work and clinics.
Comment
Why should they get anymore than the statutory minimum? We are in a state of economic decline than normal working hours for the money and expenses they get is inadequate.

2.The number of TDs should be rationalised - one TD per constituency is adequate.
Comment
Good idea but we should have some type of a list system which would broaden the experience and expertise of those who enter the dail. There are for example too many teachers in the dail.

3.All expenses and allowances paid to TDs should be accounted for in the same way as applies to the self-employed.
Comment
100% agree-if I get a taxi I must produce a receipt to claim the €10 back!!

4.TDs should have the same tax allowances as all other workers or self-employed persons. Tax certificates should be supplied before taking a seat in Dail and every year thereafter. No cert, no seat.
Comment
Again agree how can we expect the populace to stay out of the black economy and pay their taxes if TDs who make the rules dont.

5.No double jobbing as TDs are paid to do full-time jobs. Earnings from nixers and consultancy work should be used to reduce Dail salaries.

6.Official transport should only be used for official business. Unofficial or party use should be reimbursed to the State.
Comment
The waste of using the Govt jet to fly home to the opening of a crisp bag needs to be totally eliminated.

7.TDs should have the same pension entitlements as most working people and should be eligible for redundancy payments when they lose their seats.
Comment
Go further and break the link between the pensions of former members to those of current members and restrict the payment of pensions TDs until they retire.

8.The productivity of TDs should be tracked by the quarterly publication of their attendances and speaking records in the Dail and at committees.
Comment
Of no benefit unless it is linked to pay

9.The Dail's effectiveness should be monitored in terms of sitting days, bills proposed & passed and output of committees.

10.Backbenchers should have greater flexibility in respect of Dail contributions and votes. Free votes should become the norm rather than the exception.
Comment
Agree-under the current system backbenchers are mere fodder to troop through and vote.

11.If backbenchers cannot become more active and productive in the Dail, their hours of work and pay should be scaled back.
Comment
Agree

12.There should be greater public accountability of TDs' performances via annual public meetings with constituents.
Comments
Link it too pay and benefits.

13.To ensure that TDs have real mandates, elections should be rerun if fewer than 50% of the electorate in their constituencies cast votes.
Comment
A waste of money to achieve the same result make voting mandatory and link not voting to a withdrawal of state benefits that would focus peoples minds.

14.The long overdue Ethics Bill should be passed into law.
Comment
A waste of time what we need is a culture change in the country- as a country we don't tend to comply with rules and regulations.

15.Legislation should be introduced to protect all whistle blowers in lieu of the current patchwork sectoral approach.
Comment
The difficulty of the plight of whistle blowers needs to be fully understood particularily the impact on their job prospects and ability to make a living.

16.Changes and charges relating to Freedom of Information should be rolled back and its coverage broadened.
Comment
Agree

17.More powers should be given to Dail committees to conduct investigations along the lines of the Public Accounts Committee.
Comment
Agree but the number of Committees should be limited

18.A Dail Committee should be established to confirm all significant Government appointments to State boards etc.
Comment
This would be of little or no benefit if the govt held a majority on the Committee.
19.Ministers should be precluded from signing non-essential orders or making appointments once an election has been called.
Comment
The practice of appointing hacks to quangos should be overseen by an independent body.

20.Obvious flaws governing donations to politicians before and during elections should be eliminated.
No Comment

21.Recommendations from the Standards in Public Office Commission should be implemented.
Comment
Depends on the expertise of those running the Commission

22.The accounts of political parties should be audited and placed in the public domain.
Comment
Agree

Good proposals. What are you doing with them? Have you talked to anyone or found sympathetic organisations? I'm tired of talk now. We need action.

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