Our Plan for Tackling Corruption
Establish an Anti-Corruption Agency
Tackling and rooting out corruption and white collar with a powerful new independent agency.
Make Politics Work for All
Genuine reforms to make our institutions fit for purpose and responsive to the needs of citizens.
Ensure Greater Transparency
Introducing a culture of open decision-making where all public resources are allocated on the basis of need.
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Creating an Anti-Corruption Agency
Why we need an independent Anti-Corruption Agency
We are committed to the establishment of a dedicated state agency for the tackling of corruption and the enforcement of anti-corruption laws.
- Establish a new law enforcement body, an Independent Anti-Corruption Agency (IACA), to tackle white collar crime and corruption in the corporate world and political spheres
- The IACA would act as a standing Commission of Investigation and would end the need for expensive and ineffective Tribunals of Inquiry
- The IACA would initially assume some/all of the remit of a number of existing bodies including the Standards in Public Office Commission; the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement; the Registrar of Lobbyists and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. It would act as an advisory body to several other public bodies • The IACA would have a monitoring and investigative role over public procurement activities, and would be able to conduct sectoral reviews and initiate investigations as it saw fit
- Establish a new Dáil oversight committee, called the Public Interest Committee, to oversee IACA and Ministerial resource allocation decisions
You can read our full Anti-Corruption policy here.
Strengthening our Anti-Corruption Laws
- Updating all anti-corruption legislation, to include, among other things: minimum standards for eligibility to hold public office; requiring serving politicians to declare significant liabilities as well as assets; reforming the law on lobbying; and stronger rules around gifts and hospitality for all public servants.
- Abolishing the Official Secrets Act which we believe is inconsistent with whistleblowing legislation.
- Reforming the Ministers and Secretaries Act, to make senior civil servants accountable for their actions.
Demanding Transparency & Evidence
Why we need transparency in decision-making
- Abolishing the Economic Management Council.
- Introducing a clear and transparent system of resource allocation, where allocations are based on objective, pre-constructed and evidence-based criteria.
- Publishing extensive data in open source as part of the introduction of a general presumption of openness in relation to State-held data.
- Ensuring a new system of judicial appointments is introduced so that qualification is based on an exam/open competition
- Vetting of all senior appointments by Oireachtas Committees.
- Allowing free and open access to searches on the Company Registration Office, the Land Registry and the new register of Beneficial Ownership of Companies.
- Creating a new free to access register of land ownership and land sale prices.
- Introducing a requirement that all major consumer focused companies that trade here must publish full financial accounts of their activities here.
- Introducing new laws to ensure that proper records are kept of important decisions made within Government Departments and Agencies.
Making Politics Work
Why we need substantial political reform
The Irish political system is cloaked in secrecy and bureaucratic red tape and is too far removed from the needs of the citizens it is supposed to serve.
To achieve this, we are bringing forward comprehensive reform proposals in four key areas:
- Achieving greater transparency in decision-making;
- Establishing an independent Electoral Commission;
- Making genuine reforms to the Oireachtas;
- Fundamentally changing how we fund politics.
Establish an Electoral Commission
Why we need an Electoral Commission
Though the centrepiece of our system of governance, the management of the democratic process has simply not been treated as a priority by governments past and present. The Social Democrats aim to change this.
Rather than continuing to rely on a number of ad-hoc bodies to administer our electoral and referendum processes, it is our position that Irish electoral politics must instead be administered by an overarching independent statutory body with full operational and regulatory powers. Led by an individual known as the Chief Electoral Officer of Ireland, this body would be the Irish Electoral Commission.
The Irish electoral process enjoys a consistently high level of trust on the part of the Irish electorate; but we can do better. In particular, the mechanisms of our electoral process are disjointed and are under-performing; the inaccuracy of the electoral register is a prime example of how lack of coordination can lead to duplication and inaccuracy.
An overarching body that would take full responsibility for overseeing and regulating all facets of the electoral process would strengthen existing levels of trust in the electoral process, streamline its administration, and provide a transparent one stop-shop for citizens to interact with on all matters electoral.
What would the Irish Electoral Commission Do?
The remit of the Irish Electoral Commission (‘the Commission’) would pertain to all areas of the electoral process, including: voter registration, boundary divisions, campaign oversight, political financing, and voter education. The Commission would assume the current functions of the ad hoc Referendum Commissions formed to take responsibility for individual referendums, the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO), and much of the electoral functions currently carried out by Local Authorities around the country.
In addition to its responsibility for direct electoral engagement, the Commission would also conduct research and explore options to enhance and improve all aspects of the electoral process. Those electoral commissions operating in other jurisdictions regularly trial new options to increase mobilisation and make voting more accessible to all eligible voters. In that vein it one of the primary functions of the Commission would be to identify best practice initiatives to continually strengthen the electoral process in Ireland.
How would the Electoral Commission Operate?
This would be a permanent statutory body with financial accountability to the Comptroller & Auditor General. This is to be distinguished from the temporary, ad hoc nature of the highly successful and respected Referendum Commissions founded to take responsibility
for specific referendum campaigns.
- The Commission is to be led by a Chief Electoral Officer appointed through an open, transparent, non-political recruitment process conducted by the Public Appointments Service with due regard to the achieving a gender balance within the Commission;
- Staff appointments to the Commission would be made through an open, transparent, non-political recruitment process conducted by the Public Appointments Service with due regard to the achieving a gender balance within the Commission;
- The Commission would have full powers of regulation, sanction and enforcement regarding matters of electoral politics;
- The Commission would take responsibility for administering a single unified electoral register for the Irish state. This would replace the 31 separate electoral registers maintained at present;
- Centralised management of the electoral register to ensure more accurate measures of voter turnout and better strategies to increase voter participation;
- Voting locations selected to suit the electorate, not government institutions;
- Easier access to postal voting;
- Improved voting rights for recent emigrants;
- Rollout of on-going and thorough voter education initiatives aimed at mobilising citizens, increasing participation in the democratic process, and educating voters as to how the system works and how they can maximise their electoral choices;
- A more open and transparent electoral process brought about by comprehensive oversight and effective regulation.
Genuine Oireachtas Reform
Why do we need political reform?
Dáil Éireann is one of the weakest parliaments in liberal democracy and its lack of authority and autonomy has substantially undermined its ability to carry out the fundamental functions of scrutinising and holding government to account.
The Social Democrats believe we must return power to parliament so that the power to legislate, scrutinize government and hold the executive to account exists in reality and not just in theory.
Voting Rights of Members
The Irish Whip System is one of the most stringent in western democracy in that, as a rule, parliamentarians voting against the instructions of their party Whip face drastic consequences irrespective of the level of importance placed on the item being voted on.
These consequences include being expelled from the parliamentary party, which results in the loss of much needed parliamentary funding and basic resources such as administrative, and research support. Crucially ‘losing the Whip’ also involves being removed from involvement in the Oireachtas Committee system and often having access to speaking time in the Dáil withdrawn. We see this as fundamentally undemocratic.
The Ceann Comhairle is a central figure in Irish parliamentary life and we recognise the vital role this office holder plays in ensuring the democratic functioning of Dáil Éireann. We believe the power to nominate and elect the Ceann Comhairle must be removed from the hands of government and placed back into the control of the members of the Dáil. It is imperative that the nomination process is open and that the election process be conducted through secret ballot.
These are the backbone of parliament, yet a comprehensive review, revision and reform of the rules governing Dáil Éireann has not been undertaken since the foundation of the state.
The Social Democrats believe it is time to change that and, as such, we propose to undertake a consultation process aimed at revising the current Standing Orders.
Oireachtas Committee System
The Oireachtas Committee System is not being used to its fullest potential and we propose to change that by strengthening their powers of scrutiny, ensuring the system operates independent of party patronage and placing committees at the centre of the legislative process.
The number of Oireachtas Committees was reduced during the term of the 31st Dáil and this resulted in committees that were overburdened and ill-equipped to tackle the volume of business that came before them. We propose a slight expansion of the number of committees in order that each can conduct its work in a more focused and specialised fashion.
The cost of increasing the number of committees will be offset by full removal of salary top-up payments made to committee chairpersons.
We propose to alter the mechanism for appointment of committee chairpersons. First the d’Hondt system is to be applied in the apportionment of the number of committee chairpersonships each party and group receives. Second, as opposed to being appointed externally, the committees themselves must elect committee chairpersons to those positions.
It is proposed that the first stage of the legislative process be changed significantly to strengthen the role of parliament in the legislative process and to place committees at the heart of the legislative process. The process through which government legislation is initiated in the Dáil and Seanad must be altered to incorporate increased committee engagement in the drafting stages, thereby strengthening the role of parliament in producing and scrutinising legislation prior to enactment. We propose the following additional changes to the legislative process:
- This process should not end with enactment; rather legislation must be subject to post-enactment scrutiny to ensure it is operating as was originally intended. This would be achieved by attaching a brief outcome report to all new legislation so as to ensure the precise intention of the legislation is clearly understood and having committees review the operation of legislation approximately one year after enactment.
- We propose that all legislation and policy decisions are poverty proofed by working with interested parties likely to be affected by the outcomes of each decision.
Empowering the Oireachtas
As it currently stands the Oireachtas operates subject to the will of government; legislation is produced and enacted subject to the instruction of government ministers and the Government Chief Whip schedules all business. As such Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann lack the basic freedom to produce legislation and determine what items are debated, when and how. This has resulted in the Houses of the Oireachtas becoming one of the weakest parliaments in western democracy, a situation that is wholly unacceptable. The following reforms are proposed as a means of empowering the Oireachtas:
- It is proposed that a Dáil Business Committee and a Seanad Business Committee be established on a formal footing, that proceedings of these committees be minuted or that they sit in full public view. The purpose of these committees is to involve the parliament in a central way in the scheduling of the business of each house. This change is intended to alter the power deficit which currently exists where the Government as opposed to the Parliament determines the agenda.
- The Houses of the Oireachtas Commission is the body corporate charged with overall responsibility for running the Houses of the Oireachtas. Among other things this authority determines the distribution of parliamentary resources and presides over a range of other administrative functions of parliament. Yet government appoints the majority of the Commission with only minimal opposition involvement being permitted. We believe this is a major impediment to the independence of the Oireachtas and we therefore propose that the membership of the Commission be appointed subject to proportional representation determined under the d’Hondt system. We also propose that the salary top-up payment made to each member of the Commission be removed.
- There is currently an excessive amount of localism and short-termism in our national politics and we need to redistribute power to a reformed Local Government system so as to ensure that the National Parliament is freed up to direct its focus to national matters.
- We intend to introduce new requirements for public representatives to declare significant liabilities as well as assets.
- It is the position of the Social Democrats that by bringing about a number of much-needed strategic reforms in the areas of political funding and parliamentary operations we can revitalise rebalance and re-invent our political system. By undertaking wholesale, meaningful reform of the system in a way that truly respects the democratically expressed will of the citizens, operating for the sole purpose of serving the best interests of the electorate rather than the political establishment we can create a system that citizens engage with, understand and, most importantly, can be proud of. Ultimately, this is about developing a culture that centres on openness and transparency that has at its heart the ultimate goal of serving the citizens.