Longford / Westmeath Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy has called for the establishment of an all-party committee to bring forward genuine proposals to reform the Dáil, Seanad, European Parliament and local authorities.
Speaking in a Dáil debate on the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2010 Deputy Troy said: “I support the reduction in the spending limit for presidential elections, although it perhaps could be reduced further. My experience of running a Dáil election campaign on a shoe-string and being elected at a bad time for the party of which I am a member suggests that national elections could cost significantly less than what is being proposed in this Bill. I welcome that by-elections will be held within a specified period.”
On the issue of genuine reform of the political system Deputy Troy said: ‘The Government proposes to introduce radical political changes but reducing the number of Deputies by six or 12 will not achieve that goal. We need to examine the political system in its entirety, including the Dáil, Seanad and local authorities. We should bring forward a package of reforms together, not on a piecemeal basis. Fine Gael’s election manifesto indicated it would reduce the Dáil by 20 seats but I believe we could reduce this number still further by devolving powers to local authorities. These are areas that we need to consider collectively. The reason I want a cross-party group to review our political system is because I do not believe we can trust one party to operate on a consensus basis.’
Deputy Troy called on the Government to agree to establish cross-party group to investigate political reform and generate ideas in a non-partisan way. “Some of the newer Members of the House should sit on this group because, with all due respect to long-serving Members, it is hard to teach old dogs new tricks. Members who have fought several campaigns over a 20 to 30 year period become comfortable with the status quo because they know how to be elected and they sometimes appear afraid to embrace new practices.”
Much has been made of bringing new people into politics from outside industry and sectors. On this matter Deputy Troy noted: ‘Previous speakers appeared nervous about bringing in outside expertise. However, I commend the Taoiseach on his lack of fear in appointing his 11 nominees to the Seanad. If, as some have claimed, we might have ended up with Seanie Fitzpatrick as Minister for Finance, we might also have appointed Matthew Elderfield. We cannot be afraid to embrace change and we need to reform radically the way our political system operates. We are national legislators but some of us spend too much time on local issues. While voters expect us to do a certain amount of local constituency work, they also expect us to deal with national issues. Now more than ever, this is critical.’
Speaking about failings in the political system Deputy Troy commented: “The Minister was correct in stating that the failures of the political system over the past decade were key contributors to the financial crisis. This is why we need to examine the way we elect Deputies. Our system provides for auction politics and empty promises. I remind Members of the broken promises on political reform, Roscommon hospital and ensuring the money follows the patient. These promises were made with the sole intention of electoral gain.”
Deputy Troy concluded: ‘We need to rethink the way we do our business by considering the devolution of powers to local government or introducing single seat constituencies and partial list systems. I am very anxious to contribute to a meaningful debate with all parties in a short timeframe to bring forward comprehensive reforms.’