Saturday 24 March 2018

John Bruton: Majority government is the only show in town

John Bruton

John Bruton

The new Dáil is entering unknown territory. No party, or group of parties that is willing to coalesce, has a prospect of forming a majority government. In response to this, a case is being made for radically altered political practices in the Dáil.

Some envisage a loosening of the whip system. If this is confined to well-defined conscience issues, this would be good, but if it is to be extended to economic and social policy, implementation of coherent government policy would become exceptionally difficult.

If there is to be no government with a majority in the Dáil, this will require a moving of power away from the government itself towards shifting majorities of groups of deputies in the Dáil, who would decide for themselves, on a case-by-case basis, whether to pass, amend, or reject government legislation. The government could make pacts, with particular parties or groups, to pass individual pieces of legislation, but, if the whip system had also been relaxed, these pacts might not hold. Devising a legislative programme would be very difficult.

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