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Think-tank urges more use of Dail free voting


Chairman of the Convention of the Irish Constitution Tom Arnold

Chairman of the Convention of the Irish Constitution Tom Arnold

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Chairman of the Convention of the Irish Constitution Tom Arnold

The greater use of so-called free votes in the Dail is being advised by the Government's think-tank on political reform.

The Constitutional Convention made a series of timid recommendations to change the way the Dail works.

The election of the Dail's chairman, the Ceann Comhairle, by secret ballot was also put forward.

Made up of a mix of politicians and ordinary citizens, the convention proposed a Dail Reform Committee be set up to bring forward proposals for reform. The body wants this committee to include outside members and former TDs.

The convention also called for the introduction of family-friendly hours in the Dail.

The convention wants to see a procedure created to allow all TDs to propose policies that have financial costs attached.

Currently only members of Government can make policy recommendations that have financial implications, known as a charge on the public purse.

Rather than parties dictating how TDs vote, the convention wants to see greater use of free votes.

A series of constitutional changes, which would need to be put to a referendum, were also proposed:

* Referencing to the Office of the Ceann Comhairle should be enhanced to give it more status.

* Bringing in a secret ballot to elect the Ceann Comhairle.

* Including reference to committees in the Constitution.

* Amending the article relating to prior government approval for expenditure proposals.

Convention chairman Tom Arnold said how the Dail did its business went to the "very heart of our democracy" and members felt very strongly about Dail reform.

"It is an exceptionally complex issue and members of the convention heard a number of presentations from experts," he said.

Irish Independent