Today’s Sunday Independent Poll shows once again, that there is a lack of confidence in government.
This is not surprising as one of the dangers of economic depression, and an austerity agenda, is that trust is severely damaged.
We should use the opportunity in public discussions about reforming the Seanad to also discuss how we need to revitalise democracy in Ireland!
Because the practice of democracy is also damaged. How often have we seen critical decisions forced through both houses without proper debate under the excuse of emergency or time constraints?
To have real impact – actions on lobbyists, and any Seanad reform requires greater changes in how we make decisions in Ireland. The secretive, closed budget making system for example does a disservice to the country and is a disservice to politicians. Government TDs and Senators are expected to defend a budget with only a few hours’ notice on the content and on the figures. Where taking ‘one for the team’ rather than questioning poor policy is viewed as a badge of honour, and deemed worthy of reward.
Opposition TDs and Senators also have no opportunity to input to the process. We need long term budgeting that is agreed in open session through a committee system that allows the full involvement of elected representatives and public scrutiny. Unfortunately transparency in decision making is getting more opaque in my opinion. The whip and the guillotine silence TDs and Senators on both sides of the house – pushing through legislation without proper oversight.
Another idea would be to look at the committee system in the European Parliament and ask how we could adopt this in Ireland. This system allows every MEP to become involved and shape policy. This would break down the adversarial nature of our parliament, and allow what is now a very dysfunctional adolescent system grow up and become an adult.
Good decision making requires resources and time. But also requires a change in mind set, a strong commitment to the need for change and willingness by politicians to go out and explain the need for these changes to the public. Change in how we govern in Ireland, also requires bravery and a willingness to put the country first, and one’s political career second. The question that has to be asked is – do we politicians have the interest and energy to fight for a better system?