Friday 19 January 2018

Don't reform the Seanad, scrap it

But there is a lot more to political reform than just the abolition of the second chamber, writes Colm McCarthy

THE great humorist Myles na Gopaleen, aka Flann O'Brien, was in real life a civil servant who worked in the old Department of Local Government. Asked back in the 1950s to describe his ideal system of government for Ireland, he suggested "two clerical officers in Whitehall". Perhaps Myles had an unhappy time in the day job, but his suggestion has survived as the cynic's default option. Myles, I imagine, would vote Yes in the referendum to abolish the Seanad, whenever it comes along.

The depth of the current crisis has provoked many commentators to call for fundamental reform in our political and administrative structures, including demands for a new Constitution and a new Republic. It is fashionable to denounce the political parties as a bunch of thoughtless careerists, but there has been quite an amount of self-examination going on in the political class.

The Labour Party published its reform proposals on Thursday (New Government, Better Government). Its likely coalition partner, Fine Gael, released its plans for reform back in November (Reinventing Government). Both documents are detailed, thoughtful and have thus far received rather cursory -- even dismissive -- coverage in the self-styled 'serious' media.

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