ONLY EIGHT SUBMISSIONS were made to the Citizens’ Assembly on the issue of fixed term parliaments, just one of which came from a political party.
The assembly is meeting for the final time this weekend and will look at whether there should be greater restrictions on the Taoiseach’s ability to effectively choose when the Dáil is to be dissolved.
Ahead of this latest meeting, chair Mary Laffoy said: “It is understood that this topic was included at the request of the Independent Alliance.”
A commitment to hold the Citizens’ Assembly and to include the issue of fixed term parliaments was contained in the Programme for Government which the Independent Alliance signed up to in May 2016.
But despite the potential importance of the issue to the future operation of the Dáil, only the Green Party made a submission to the assembly on the issue.
No member of the Independent Alliance made a submission on the issue with a spokesperson saying that they did not hold a collective view.
Transport Minister Shane Ross is believed to have been the main driver of the topic being included in the Citizens’ Assembly, with the Dublin Rathdown TD having published a private member’s bill on the issue while being in opposition.
Ross was not available to provide a comment to TheJournal.ie on whether he remained supportive of fixed-term parliaments and about whether he chose not to make a submission to the Citizens’ Assembly.
Fixed term proposals
The Green Party’s submission argues in favour of a system similar to that adopted in the UK whereby the date of the next election is set five years in advance, with an election happening before this only in two circumstances.
The first would be a Taoiseach losing a vote of no-confidence and not being replaced, and the second being where a two-thirds majority of the Dáil votes in favour of an early election.
This circumstance occurred before the last UK general election in 2016 when all the main opposition parties supported Theresa May’s proposal for a general election.
Of the seven other submissions made on the issue of fixed term parliaments, most called for the Taoiseach to have less control over when an election takes place with one saying that a government should be “sackable” by way of a recall election.
Before making a recommendation on this issue tomorrow, the assembly members will hear presentations from four academics today about how Dáil dissolution has occurred in Ireland and about the practice takes place in other countries.
Details about the weekend’s schedule are available on the Citizens’ Assembly website which will also be streaming the proceedings.
The assembly met first time exactly 18 months ago and has made recommendations on four other issues, the first of which was the Eighth Amendment and this is now being put to a referendum next month.