Monday 22 January 2018

FG pushes to cut presidential term of office in policy shake-up

ine Kerr Political Correspondent

FINE Gael wants to reduce the term of office of the President to just five years under radical plans to shake up the entire electoral system.

In a major new policy document, the party also argues that the rule preventing anyone under the age of 35 from running for the presidency should be changed to allow citizens aged 18 and over to run.

The 'New Politics' document is still being finalised but will be published before the party's ard-fheis next month when Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny plans to convince the public he can be the next Taoiseach.

The plan includes proposals to abolish the Seanad and create a "Mixed Electoral System", which would see 12 TDs elected from four regions based on the European constituencies.

The unpublished plans argue that the seven-year term of office -- or a maximum of two terms totalling 14 years -- is a long time for one person to remain in office. Instead, the document argues, a limit of 10 years should be imposed.

This, similar to abolishing the Seanad, would require constitutional changes and a referendum vote. The Constitution explicitly states that a president shall hold office for "seven years from the date upon which he enters upon his office".


The Fine Gael document recommends the presidential elections should be held on the same day as the local and European elections every five years. This would act as a massive cost-saving measure.

Politicians who have signalled their interest in seeking a nomination to run for president are Fianna Fail's Mary White, Labour's Michael D Higgins and independent Senator David Norris.

Others, such as Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness, Fianna Fail MEP Brian Crowley, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Barnardos chief Fergus Finlay, continue to feature in bookies' speculative lists.

Since last summer, the party's environment spokesman Phil Hogan has been working on the extensive proposals.

Under the proposed changes to the electoral system, some 134 TDs would still be elected under the traditional system, while 12 TDs would be elected on the basis of a list system.

Mr Kenny has previously claimed such a new system would allow for the election of "a limited number of people with particular expertise gained outside of politics".

The system would see candidates elected from party lists of individuals with a proven track record.

But Mayo TD Michael Ring has claimed the system would only attract more "fly by nights".

"We have them in already. There's no point pretending otherwise. We have three governments in this country -- the ministers who were elected, the civil servants and the programme managers," he Mr Ring.

"There's no need. Let the elected people be elected and let them take in the private guys if they need them."

Under the list system, seats are awarded to parties based on their share of the national vote.

"I will never agree with it. I think a list system is a class system. It will benefit the super rich with influence," he said.

The other aspect of the document that may provoke debate again is the proposal to create a "unicameral parliament", which would see the Seanad abolished.

Irish Independent

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