Today Ireland goes to the polls to elect a new president. The job isn’t as important as in other countries, but one of the primary roles of the President is to veto new laws if they are unconstitutional. Nevertheless the election campaign has been downright dirty and negative as the hopeful candidates can’t really attack each other on policy issues.
It was the same last time. Skeletons are dragged out of closets, old events rehashed and exposed to the light of day again. There must be a better way of electing the first citizen?
I know who I don’t want to vote for: Dana, Sean Gallagher, David Norris, Martin McGuinness or Mary Davis. The remaining candidates, Gay Mitchell and Michael D Higgins, haven’t made any impression on me. A random number generator would make more sense than trying to decide among that lot.
Last I heard Sean Gallagher was in the lead, contrary to opinion on Twitter, and to this ballot taken by expats.
What’s more important for the country are the two referendums. There is the referendum website but since I guarantee that it will be gone by this time next year here are the two questions being asked of the Irish populace:
Referendum on the pay of judges
This referendum is about whether the pay of judges can be reduced in certain circumstances. At present the Constitution does not allow for the reduction of the remuneration of sitting judges.
Referendum on inquiries by the Oireachtas
This referendum proposes to give the Houses of the Oireachtas (the Dáil and Seanad) express power to conduct inquiries into matters of general public importance and, in doing so, to make findings of fact about any person’s conduct.
I think I’ll be voting no to the first amendment, and possibly no to the second one but I’m undecided about that. That’s the amendment I’m most interested in but have heard the least debate about on radio. This post seems quite clear on the changes, admitting that some aspects are still vague and letting the chair of a committee decide the rights of witnesses is worrying. Will this second amendment bring us “broadly” in line with other countries?
Here are the two amendments, for history:
Proposed amendment – judges’ pay
At present, Article 35.5 of the Constitution states:
“The remuneration of a judge shall not be reduced during his continuance in office.”
It is proposed to replace this with the following wording:
5 1° The remuneration of judges shall not be reduced during their continuance in office save in accordance with this section.
2° The remuneration of judges is subject to the imposition of taxes, levies or other charges that are imposed by law on persons generally or persons belonging to a particular class.
3° Where, before or after the enactment of this section, reductions have been or are made by law to the remuneration of persons belonging to classes of persons whose remuneration is paid out of public money and such law states that those reductions are in the public interest, provision may also be made by law to make proportionate reductions to the remuneration of judges.
Proposed amendment – Oireachtas inquiries
At present, Article 15.10 states:
“Each House shall make its own rules and standing orders, with power to attach penalties for their infringement, and shall have power to ensure freedom of debate, to protect its official documents and the private papers of its members, and to protect itself and its members against any person or persons interfering with, molesting or attempting to corrupt its members in the exercise of their duties.”
It is proposed to renumber this as 15.10.1° and to insert the following subsections:
2° Each House shall have the power to conduct an inquiry, or an inquiry with the other House, in a manner provided for by law, into any matter stated by the House or Houses concerned to be of general public importance.
3° In the course of any such inquiry the conduct of any person (whether or not a member of either House) may be investigated and the House or Houses concerned may make findings in respect of the conduct of that person concerning the matter to which the inquiry relates.
4° It shall be for the House or Houses concerned to determine, with due regard to the principles of fair procedures, the appropriate balance between the rights of persons and the public interest for the purposes of ensuring an effective inquiry into any matter to which subsection 2° applies.
(First image via this Reddit thread)