Convention seeks more status for Ceann Comhairle

The Constitutional Convention has made a number of recommendations on political reform including enhancing the position of the Ceann Comhairle to give it more status.

Just days after Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett threatened to resign if TDs did not adhere to his instructions, the convention voted to change the constitution in order to allow the position to be elected by secret ballot.

The 100-strong group, which met in Malahide in Co Dublin over the weekend, heard presentations from academics and experts and former politicians including ex taoiseach John Bruton and former Fianna Fáil minister Noel Dempsey.

Sixty-eight percent voted to allow all TDs, including members of the opposition, to make recommendations to the Dáil which involve extra public expenditure — currently only members of the Government are allowed.

On the party whip system which delivers strong Government but can lead to disquiet among TDs, 84% voted in favour of more “free votes” on Dáil and committee business meaning TDs would not be instructed how to vote.

Somewhat surprisingly the convention agreed to more family-friendly hours for TDs but just 63% voted in favour, with 37% either against it or having no opinion.

It also called for a number of other changes including standing orders and parliamentary practices.

Chairman Tom Arnold said Dáil reform was an exceptionally complex issue and the debate was heavy and rigorous.

The former head of Concern said it was also very fortunate to have elected representatives from a number of African countries and listening to their discussion was a reminder how “the constitution is a living breathing document that has real impact on our lives”.

The Government has four months to respond to the recommendation. The convention has already deliberated on an number of issues including recommending the holding of the forthcoming referendum on gay marriage.


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