Fine Gael’s radical political reform plan will build a ‘New Republic’

Fine Gael’s New Politics is the most ambitious programme for political reform since the 1930s. Our view is simple: Politicians cannot ask others to change and make sacrifices if they are not prepared to do the same. Fine Gael will reduce the total number of Oireachtas members by a third by abolishing the Seanad and cutting the number of TDs by 20.

A Fine Gael Government will hold a referendum on CONSTITUTION DAY within 12 months of assuming office at which the people will be asked to approve the abolition of the Seanad and other changes to the articles of the constitution covering the institutions of the state – principally the Executive, the Dáil, the Presidency and the Judiciary. This referendum will not address the articles dealing with rights/social policy.
Fine Gael believes that an over-powerful Executive has turned the Dail into an observer of the political process rather than a central player and that this must be changed.
We will:
• Amend the constitution to give Dail committees full powers of investigation. The Abbeylara Supreme Court decision currently limits the ability of Dáil committees to hold investigations into crucial issues of public concern, such as the banking crisis.
• Reduce the number of committees and give key committees constitutional standing. The Dáil needs fewer but stronger committees, resourced properly.
• De-politicise their work. Chairs of committees will be assigned on a more proportional basis, while legislation will typically be introduced in a heads of Bill format to increase the chance of cross-party support.
• Initiation of legislation and guillotines. We will give committees the power to introduce legislation, while a new 10 Minute Rule will allow backbench TDs to introduce their own Bills. We will also tackle the huge over-use of guillotines to ram through non-emergency legislation.
Fine Gael believes there must also be a real shift in power from the state to the citizen.
• Fine Gael has already published an Open Government Bill. It will significantly strengthen Freedom of Information; establish a “whistleblowers charter”; register all lobbyists; and create a new Electoral Commission.
• We will establish a Citizens Assembly, along the lines of those used in Canada and the Netherlands, to make recommendations on electoral reform. We will also introduce a petitions system for the Dail.
• We will strengthen local government. We will move many of the functions currently being performed by agencies back to Local Government and ensure that all property-related revenues are part of the income stream of Local Government.
• Fine Gael will reduce the voting age to 17 and give eligible citizens the right to vote at Irish embassies in the Presidential election. If this experiment is deemed a success Fine Gael will consider extending this practice to general elections.