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FG pledge poltical reform

Fine Gael today outlined a radical package of political reform including reducing the voting age to 17, cutting the Taoiseach's salary and abolishing severance pay for ministers.

Leader Enda Kenny said issues of pay, pensions and party funding have to be tackled to regain public trust in politics.

The Taoiseach's salary would come down to €200,000 while parties would no longer be able to accept funding from big business under the new regime.

"The political system must lead the way by doing more with less," Mr Kenny said.

"For the last 13 years Irish politics was dominated by the politics of the Galway Tent. Government was run by and for a small group of privileged insiders, the so-called 'Friends of Fianna Fail'.

"Government ministers were paid too much and given huge sums of goodbye money as they left politics, even though they brought the country to its financial knees.

"Fine Gael, if elected to government, will change things radically and permanently."

Included in the extensive reforms unveiled in Kilkenny are commitments to follow through with Mr Kenny's threat to abolish the Seanad, if sanctioned by voters in a referendum. They will also reduce the number of TDs by 20 and the total number of politicians by a third.

On earnings, Fine Gael said ministerial salaries would come down in line with changes to the Taoiseach's salary and it would also end the practice of "golden parachutes" for ministers leaving office - pensions would only be paid when politicians reach the national retirement age.

State cars for current and former officials would be scrapped in favour of a pool system and TDs would also be forced to vouch for all their expenses.

Mr Kenny said: "The Irish people do not want to see failed ministers walking away with large lump sums. They don't understand why former ministers, unlike everyone else, receive their pension before retirement age.

"And they are concerned and continue to be concerned about the influence that companies and trade unions have over political parties as a result of corporate donations."

Limits will also be put on the amount an individual can donate to a party, Fine Gael said.

Andrew Doyle, front bench TD, used the launch to try to distance the party from Labour and election rivals by committing to a ban on cash from corporations including trade unions.

"Irish politics must be made more transparent and accountable," Mr Doyle said.

"It is important for a new government to put a stop to this scourge and a Fine Gael government will introduce a ban on corporate donations within the first 100 days of government."

On the workings of the Dail, Fine Gael said TDs should be given full powers of investigation, with a smaller number of committees, greater power and constitutional standing.

Other key parts of the reform package would see eligible citizens living abroad given the right to vote at Irish embassies in the presidential election; significant strengthening of Freedom of Information; establishment of a 'whistleblowers charter'; registering of all lobbyists; and creation of a new Electoral Commission.

Fine Gael also said it wants a petitions system to advise the Dail and a Citizens Assembly made up of 100 members of the public which would make recommendations on electoral reform and how to increase the number of women in politics.

PA Media