Desmond proposes radical changes to government

ONE OF Ireland’s wealthiest businessmen, Dermot Desmond, has circulated a detailed plan for political reform to leading figures…

ONE OF Ireland’s wealthiest businessmen, Dermot Desmond, has circulated a detailed plan for political reform to leading figures in business and political life.

“Ireland First: Political Reform – Effective and Efficient Government” proposes radical changes in the electoral system and the way government works. The suggestions include:

* Ministers should resign their Dáil seats to devote themselves to the work of government.

* People from outside the Dáil should be appointed as ministers.


* The number of cabinet ministers should be reduced to 10.

* The ceann comhairle should be elected by secret ballot.

* The Seanad should be abolished.

* The electoral system should be changed radically to end the focus on local issues.

* The Dáil committee system should be strengthened.

* The Freedom of Information Act should be strengthened and a whistleblowers’ charter adopted.

Many of the proposals in the document, which was circulated on February 1st, were also contained in the Fianna Fáil election manifesto launched last Monday.

Mr Desmond, the chairman of International Investment and Underwriting, was the inspiration behind the creation of the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin. His document says there is a lack of competence in government, the Dáil is failing to fulfil its basic functions, the Seanad is irrelevant and the electoral system encourages TDs to behave like county councillors, while county councillors have little control over local decisions.

“If Ireland is to prevent itself sleepwalking into another crisis in 20 years time we must radically reform the political system to a design that puts Ireland first,” it says.

One of the most radical suggestions is that ministers should no longer be constituency representatives but should resign their Dáil seats on appointment to the cabinet. Rather than have “messy byelections”, each minister would be allowed nominate substitutes, whose names would be on the ballot paper at a general election.

The election of the ceann comhairle by secret ballot is proposed so the person chosen would owe loyalty to the members of the Dáil rather than the government. That, combined with other changes such as a strengthened committee system, would further redress the imbalance between the executive, which is too powerful, and parliament, which is too weak, it states.

The establishment of an office for the opposition proposes to give them the resources to hold the executive to account.

A proposal to change the electoral system is to retain multiseat constituencies but remove the geographical basis for them. Voters would be allocated to 33 five-seat constituencies to which they would belong for the rest of their lives.

The full text of Dermot Desmond's plan may be read online onThe Irish Times website at: