TODAY'S Ireland was born out of many system failures. Our banking system failed, with dire and outrageously expensive consequences. Our planning system failed, with far-reaching social, economic and environmental consequences. Our economy in general failed, with the scourges of emigration and unemployment being the unmistakable tragic symptoms. Prevailing over all of these system failures, our political system has fundamentally failed the Irish State and its people. Only when we fully accept this reality, can we begin to properly rebuild our nation.
It is crucial, for the sake of our country and the future of our people, that we consider all proposals for how we can fix the political system by putting in place a better one. That is why I have introduced a new Bill before Dáil Éireann, that would radically change the political and electoral landscape as we know it. I am convinced that it would change it for the better.
My Bill, The Thirty-Second Amendment of the Constitution (Dáil Éireann) Bill 2012, if passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas, would go before the people in a constitutional referendum. The Bill proposes to amend the constitution to set the number of members of Dáil Éireann at 101 members, to be elected from 100 evenly populated constituencies, retaining the single transferrable vote system, with the outgoing Ceann Comhairle automatically returned.
The following are some of the many merits to such a system.
● The primary purpose of such a radical departure from the status quo is to help ensure that the attention of parliamentarians can be focussed on parliamentary, legislative and policy issues and not as much on issues that are more appropriate for local councillors or other public servants.
● Single seat constituency scenarios would reduce the pressure on TDs to "compete for clients" and would better facilitate the delegation of non-parliamentary issues by TD's to Councillors.
● As the single incumbent in a constituency, if performing well, TDs would be recognised and rewarded for delivering parliamentary achievements. This would set them apart from all other politicians in their constituencies and they would not need to delve into non-parliamentary areas to win public support.
● Single seat constituencies would also eliminate a huge amount of duplication and
repetition within the civil service, as three, four or five TD's from the same constituency, make representations on the same issues to the same Departments, subsequently receiving the same replies, to be processed by all of their respective offices before being returned to the same constituents. This is before all three, four or five TDs take credit for the same jobs. It's a joke but a time consuming and expensive joke.
● Single seat constituencies would also tackle one of the main weaknesses of the party system in Ireland, which is the amount of incumbent TDs' time that is misappropriated fending off competition from other incumbent TDs from the same party. This time and energy would be so much better spent devising job creation policies for the people, writing legislation for the common good or scrutinising new or existing legislation.
● A smaller Dáil would be less congested, allowing greater opportunity for detailed discussion on relevant topics.
● A reduction of 65 TDs from the current Dáil number would save millions of the people's money every year. In a country of about four and a half million people, we don't need 166 TDs and we certainly do not need 226 Parliament members, when the Seanad is counted. 101 TDs and the President would be plenty. Efficiency and cost-effectiveness must start at the top.
This reform Bill is just one of my proposals on how we can achieve a Dáil that works better for the people. Many other reforms such as reform of Dáil procedures do not need constitutional change and I am working from within Government to achieve these. The system proposed in my Bill would greatly enhance the productivity of our Parliament whilst retaining the direct link between its members and the people who elect them. If in place before now, I firmly believe that such a system would have helped prevent our current, terrible crisis.
Ultimately, within Leinster House, this proposal will have many critics. Outside of Leinster House, the sceptics will say that the turkeys will never vote for Christmas. The reality is that nobody's seat is bigger than our Dáil and our country. We cannot afford not to reform. As representatives of the people in our national Parliament, the overall good must supersede the instinct of selfpreservation in all TDs. For our nation and its children, it would be so worth it.