Political Reform: How about we explore using the unused bits of our Constitution first?

An open source Bunreacht header from Wikipedia

It is interesting how the political reform debate is developing. Some of the ideas seem to miss that there may be more scope for change under the existing constitution than is realized.


Article 27 of the Constitution details a procedure whereby Bills can be referred to the people (although it requires a majority of the senad, and one third of the Dail plus the agreement of the President). This article should be read with Article 47.2. which forsees the ability for the electorate to pass a referendum on a bill….but there must be more than 33.3% turnout. I’m not the biggest fan of referenda as a democratic tool, but the point is that very contentious proposals could be put to the people that way…….should we have had a referendum on the Bailout like Iceland? Well most people have missed the fact that we could easily enough have gone that road.

Some commentators have complained we need new talent around the cabinet, perhaps people with experience from the world of business. I’m a bit skeptical about that argument, BUT if that is what you want…recall that….

Article 28.7.2 of our constitution allows that up to two members of the Cabinet can be drawn from the Senate, and these could be non-political experts nominated by any Taoiseach.  We did have a well regarded foreign minister at one stage in the early 1980s, James Dooge (FG), who was a Senator.

The debate has also comparatively ignored quite important but humdrum offices, like Article 33, which details the provisions for the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). The actual powers of the CAG are not specified, and I would like to see any future CAG getter a much stronger constitutional position, including the ability to freeze spending and public accounts, and get access to public spending details with a wide margin of discretion.

My fear is that the current mood is all ‘talk’ about radical reform…but either (a) no radical political reform will be implemented when the new government comes into office because it will be so busy just trying to stave of national bankruptcy, or (b) some semi-radical reforms may be agreed but they may not be really implemented or used…they could like Articles 27 and 47.2 just remain interesting concepts……..which in theory could be used but are left aside………


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