This thread is for quick-fire questions and answers or for questions which dont fall under the broad headings of the other threads.
The government seems to have quietly set aside the whole issue of reforming finance in politics, and I note that despite the odd call for it nothing concrete has happened.
You said in July that the GP would go to the people if the legislation to reform campaign finance wasn't enacted by the end of the year. Will the legislation be in place by then? If not, will you really pull out of government? And if it is, will the reforms be in place and law by the time of the earliest likely general election, say Spring 2011?
Given the government's revenue shortfalls, the European economics commissioner has signaled that Ireland might need to reconsider its low corporate tax rate. The American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland has vehemently protested.
Do you think that the corporate tax rate should be increased? If so, to what level? If not, why?
In addition, the debate over the corporate tax rate touches on many of the pre-Lisbon treaty concerns in Ireland over national sovereignty, particularly when it comes to fiscal policy.
Do you think the actions of the government have put Ireland's economic sovereignty at risk? Is 'economic sovereignty' even a viable concept in Ireland, given the country's reliance on foreign investment and (increasingly) the European Central Bank?
I am fielding this question on behalf of Sparks, a category moderator on Boards.ie, who asks whether there is any point (beyond the formalities of public appearance) in pretending that we still utilise debate in the Irish political system when:
- The party whip is used on every vote;
- Bills are guillotined to meet deadlines external to the Oireachtas;
- Debates are considered to be relatively well attended if there is more than one member of the cabinet present;
- The degree of technical knowledge displayed by those speaking on the areas being legislated is most politely described as absent;
- The government operates off information that is not made available to all parties; and
- Policies are announced as fait accompli to the media before the debate begins?
What is your opinion, based on your experience as a TD, on how debates are conducted in the Oireachtas? What reforms of the current system (if any) would you favour?
The Government hasn't set aside the issue of reforming funding of political parties and specifically corporate donations. It is still in place to be introduced. The delay has not come from Fianna Fail stone-walling, but rather from delays within the drafting process. A lot of legislation is going through John Gormley's department and it is taking time. In my view too much time. I would gladly delay the Dublin Mayor legislation to allow the corporate donations legislation to be front loaded. But this isn't going to happen because the corporate donations stuff is not going to be ready for a while yet, while the Mayoralty stuff is just about ready.
There was another issue in that the Attorney General apparently raised issues relating to what the exact definition of a "corporate donation" is. But this was not the substantive issue and should not and will not stop amending legislation being introduced.
If Fianna Fail go back on promises made on the policy front, and assuming the budget is tough but as fair as can be, then the Green Party would do its duty by the country and pass the budget but we would clearly see no reason for staying any longer after that time if we were being messed around.
But as it stands we aren't being messed around. Not to say it won't be tried though.
The Green Party had originally as part of its policy suggested that a small increase in corporation tax would not affect our competitiveness but would ensure that corporations would pay a fairer share. This was not agreed in the Programme for Government and as such we support current Government policy to leave as is. It is one of the few remaining USP's we have.
There may be pressure to change, but there is no obligation. And I think it is cheeky of the Germans to poo poo our low rate of corporation tax when they assist companies through other measures.
As regards economic sovereignty, I think the greater influence on that is our membership of the euro as opposed to the passing of Lisbon. That said I think we would be made to leave the eurozone, even with the limitations it puts on domestic monetary policy.
The issue of what sovereignty remains is dealt with in a separate discussion (patriotic duty) in terms of what controls we have now versus what we would have if the IMF came in.
The 15 members of Government make the real decisions. The Dail is too often a rubber stamping exercise. Sometimes this is a necessity, but real debate and influence is curtailed excessively.
A Government cannot provide full information on every occasion as some of it is confidential and cannot risk being leaked. At the same time the system of parliamentary questions and questions to the Taoiseach does allow for information to be released.
I would prefer more quick fire questioning as with the UK parliament, however.
Regarding reforms, I would like to see certain votes to be whip free. This would give the Dail a lot more leeway to be truly representative of the people. It should sit more often, especially on Fridays, with more family friendly hours and greater opportunities to raise topical issues early in the day.
This ties in with electoral reform, which is to be looked at under the PfG. If we had single seat PR, for example, with a top up list based on vote performance by parties and individuals nationally, you would have a more representative Dail focused on legislation and national issues rather than clientist and local issues.
There is an expectation as a TD that I work on local issues, and am happy to do so, but if that role was curtailed I think you would find many representatives would be liberated to do more creative, long term work.
Thank you for that answer Paul, it is genuinely insightful. If I could ask a follow on before putting the issue to bed:
Does Minister Gormley expect to have the relevant legislation ready to go to the Oireachtas by the end of the year? And if I could clarify, would such legislation take force by the time of the coming election?
You seem to be of the view that the Green Party is in at this stage to pass the budget, to do your duty as you term it. After the budget is their an increased likelyhood of the Green party pulling the plug? Is there a feeling in the party to want to get out of government with Fianna Fail and call an election?
Paul this is a question more so as a TD than a Green Party TD.
As a member of the national Parliament do you feel you and your colleagues are impeded by the expectations of your local constituents and are dragged into the realms and responsibilities of councillors? What changes do you feel are necessary so we can ensure our National Representatives are allowed to concentrate on facing national issues and planning for the future even when it may be at the detriment of their local constituents but in the overall national good?
I looked at your website last night and 8 of the 10 stories were about issues that I would class as local government and not national issues. To be fair I have just got a newsletter from Conor Lenihan this morning in the normal daily junk mail drop and everything in that could be classified as local issues as well.
Personally I believe the time has come to implement a list system in this country for the National Parliament. Is this something you could support or you would feel the Green Party could support?
There are so many empty council houses around why aren't these offered to rent to people currently receiving Rental Supplement - surely that would save a few euro.
Secondly I understand that the CWO's are due to come back under the social welfare umbrella - at the moment the phones aren't being answered in the local sw offices, the dole queues are long (one employee operating the sign on hatch) - how is this going to help people who need urgent financial assistance. As it is people are waiting for weeks for the "dole" to come through.
Question posted by nesf
Q: Why is this Government, who are doomed to be voted out in the next election, not using this opportunity to do a root and branch reworking of the public service and correct the deep inefficiencies that plague the institution. They've nothing to lose, they can afford to take very unpopular yet necessary actions.
Let's just say that the parliamentary party is putting pressure on the Minister to hurry up with the legislation. I would rather know if FF intend to block it sooner rather than later. John has indicated he will go as fast as he can.
There are other issues we want to progress, so if we can and we are achieving, we will stay in for a while longer. These include issues such as appointments to public bodies and electoral reform.
In terms of whether the corporate donations will be in place to impact on the next election, the honest answer is I don't know.
I would agree and would have thought that the Croke Park Agreement was at least a step in the right direction. However while some areas are making progress, eg the INTO are already working with schools to add extra hours into the system, there seems to be confusion as to what movement if any is taking place overall. The unions are blaming management but ultimately the buck stops with Government if it isn't implemented.
The funny thing is that if Croke Park doesn't get implemented fully, then next year could see reforms being imposed. It would be ironic if these were implemented by a Labour Party minister in Government.
I agree, a certain type of list system. See my reply to Donegal
Do you expect the Green Party to have any deputies returned to the Dail after the coming election?
What are your plans, and the party plans in general, for life after what looks to be a worse-than-PD style drubbing to come?
Do you feel that a smaller party in government gets an unfair portion of the blame come election time?