15 December

Our electoral and resultant political systems are not fit for purpose. These systems are inefficient and do not serve the best interests of the State and the Irish people. After almost a century of political independence, our State, while successful in many areas, has failed dismally to achieve its full potential. This fundamental failure has been painfully evident in recent years and will continue as long as we ignore the fundamental causes of our under-achievement. We need to change how we elect our TD’s and how the Dáil operates. This piece focusses on the former.

Since the foundation of the state, the PRSTV system (Proportional Representation Single Transferrable Vote) has been in use here. One of its particular benefits is the chance it provides for giving the marginalised a greater say in parliamentary affairs. Attempts to abolish the system in the past were defeated by the people. It seems Irish people value the opportunity to choose in order of preference.  In my new bill, The Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution Bill (Dáil Éireann) 2014, I propose keeping this system (commonly referred to as AV in a single seat scenario albeit not by our constitution) but abolishing multi-seat constituencies, replacing them instead with 157 single seat constituencies of about 20,000 electors each, with the outgoing Ceann Comhairle automatically returned.

In 2012, I introduced a similar bill on single seat constituencies, the main difference being that I proposed a reduction of the number of TD’s to 101 from 158. The result was that nearly all of the focus of the debate on the bill was on the loss of TD’s jobs rather than the main purpose, which is getting a better electoral system. Therefore, in this bill, I propose to retain the current number of TD’s.

Why single seat constituencies in the first place you might ask? The following are just some of the reasons why I feel we need to change the way we operate:

In a single Dáil seat scenario, we could make available to Councillors the facilities that currently exist for TD’s, such as dedicated Social Welfare inquiry lines, medical card inquiry lines and perhaps a quota of parliamentary style written questions. These functions, with the exception of the parliamentary questions, could then be removed from legislators in the new Dáil, allowing TD’s and their staff more time on the “bigger issues”. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad to assist any constituent who comes to me, and I dedicate a great deal of my time to making myself available and accessible to help people. I also find this work personally very rewarding, and as long as the system remains the way it is, most TD’s will do the same, but surely a collective move towards a more parliamentary focussed Dáil would be better for the country overall.

Continuing with the current system, is in my view, setting us up to fail again as a nation. Changing how TD’s get in to the Dáil in the first place might very well be what we need to get more out of our TD’s. If we can do this, as well as changing how the Dáil operates when they get there, I am convinced we would have a far better country for everyone.

  • Twitter

  • Archives