Political reform - Welcome first steps

THE reluctance of the last government to hold three by-elections was as anti-democratic as it was pathetically self serving.

In any event Mr Cowen’s contemptuous stonewalling did no more than defer the inevitable but at even further cost to the credibility of our political system.

Yesterday’s announcement by Environment Minister Phil Hogan that legislation will be introduced to make it mandatory to hold by-elections within six months of a vacancy arising is welcome. It recognises that a person’s right to representation far outweighs any advantage a political party might seek by contriving to set election dates.

Mr Hogan also announced that there might be as many as 20 fewer Dáil deputies after the next election. This decision follows a 2007 court ruling and will be finalised after the preliminary results of last month’s census are published next month.

These were among a number of measures announced by Mr Hogan and they begin to reshape the engineering of how our politics work. Just like the promised 2012 referendum on the Seanad, they are a long overdue, but nevertheless very welcome first steps.


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