Fine Gael tops academics’ assessment of political reform pledges

THE incoming government’s record on political reform is to be tracked and graded after a team of leading academics trawled through party pledges and rated proposals for change.

Fine Gael scored highest overall when it came to proposals for political reform but most parties scored poorly on plans to change local government.

The group, Reformcard, examined proposals under five headings of Oireachtas, electoral, open government, public sector and local government reform and marked party plans out of 100. Each are accounted for 20 marks.

Work would continue after election day, vowed the group, who have set up the scoreboard system on political reform because of the lack of clarity and bluster surrounding party pledges.

Reformcard said yesterday that parties could also up their scores in the coming days if further policies and pledges were launched.

Group co-founder Joseph Curtin said: “We are used to evaluating things in everyday life from product reviews, to energy ratings, to football players. Reformcard brings the same thinking to politics.”

By last night, Fine Gael was ahead on the group’s ratings for political reform plans with an overall score of 73 out of 100. Labour followed on 68, Fianna Fáil on 58, the Green Party on 53 while Sinn Féin was on a low 26 in the scoreboard.

Fine Gael pledges to open all government data, protect whistleblowers, make public sector budgets more accountable and appoint a minister of public service reform, impressed the group.

But the party scored lower when it came to addressing the issue of executive dominance in government, such as cabinet reform, as well as with limited plans to increase accountability among local government.

Labour scored high on the issue of reforming Freedom of Information (FOI) and the lobbying of politicians as well as plans to improve the gender balance in public life. But the party’s limited proposals on Dáil reform were noted with the emphasis being too strong on longer sitting hours rather than plans that were weaker to give TDs more power and reduce the power of Cabinet ministers.

Fianna Fáil, despite coming late to the reform debate the group said, had noteworthy plans to require ministers to step down from their constituencies and allow non-TDs into Cabinet.

But the party fell down on areas of open government reform such as limited reference to FOI changes, the opening of government data as well as underdeveloped policies on protecting whistleblowers and regulating lobbyists.

While the Green Party had promoted itself as one of reform in government, it came third place overall, with limited proposals on reforming the public sector or the Dáil. The party pulled in points though when it came to involving citizens at local level and pledges to empower local authorities.

Sinn Féin’s proposals lacked significant reform in the public sector and in open government but the party scored high on proposals for an independent electoral commission and votes for immigrants.

* reformcard.com.

Party plans for political reform. Samples of where scores are worst and best out of 20:

* Open government

Fine Gael — 17.8

Greens — 16.6

Labour — 15.8

Fianna Fáil — 11.4

Sinn Féin — 0.6

* Public sector

Fine Gael — 16.9

Labour — 16.9

Fianna Fáil — 15

Greens — 2.3

Sinn Féin — 0.8

* Legislative

Fianna Fáil — 16.3

Fine Gael — 15.4

Labour — 13

Sinn Féin — 9.1

Greens — 7.8

* Electoral

Sinn Féin — 15.4

Fine Gael — 13

Fianna Fáil — 12.3

Greens — 11.8

Labour — 11.3

* Local government

Greens — 14.1

Labour — 10.8

Fine Gael — 9.9

Fianna Fáil — 2.3

Sinn Féin — 0.4

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