Friday 21 July 2017

Proposal for divisive 'list system' to electoutsiders is dropped from party's radical agenda

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

FINE GAEL has already kicked to touch one of the key plans in the party's radical package of political reform.

The controversial proposal for a list system to elect some TDs was planned to be a part of the party's 'New Politics' document, which is to be launched today.

But Environment Spokesman Phil Hogan, who drafted the plans, said at the conference in Killarney at the weekend that the list system proposal would not be included.

Party leader Enda Kenny has committed himself to other aspects of the plan, including the abolition of the Seanad and reducing the number of TDs in the Dail by 20 to 146.

But Mr Hogan said the list-system proposal, which would have allowed for the election of a limited number of people with particular expertise gained outside politics, is off the agenda for now.

Divisions

The suggestion that around 15 TDs be elected through the list system caused deep divisions in the party's front bench, with some suggesting that it could be elitist and divisive. A proposal to have quotas for women candidates has also been dropped. Mr Hogan outlined his plans to delegates in Killarney, with some party members also suggesting that the presence of a list-elected TD in cabinet could lead to divisions at the top of government.

During a seminar at the conference, Mr Hogan said that the current system of government, with multiple quangos and agencies, was not working. He said power had been taken away from the Dail in areas where key decisions were made, such as in the social partnership process and in the drafting of the Budget.

He also said that the party would have a "constitution day" within a year of getting into government, when it would put its political reforms to the country in an omnibus referendum.

Other proposals in the New Politics document are the introduction of a public petition mechanism of the Dail, reducing the term of office of the president from seven to five years and establishing a citizens' assembly.

Mr Hogan also said chairmen of state bodies would have to resign within a year of Fine Gael taking office.

They would then have to reapply for their jobs and would be questioned by an Oireachtas committee as part of the process.

Senior civil servants would also sign contracts that would make them work across the public sector, and not just in one department or area, Mr Hogan said.

Dail committees would have their powers beefed up and would not be the "playthings" of the government of the day, he added.

There would also be a whistleblower's charter and a new Freedom of Information Act.

Irish Independent

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