The Right to Vote
115. This Ard Fheis agrees that eliminating voter fraud is a legitimate aim, and that appropriate procedures should be adopted to ensure that every eligible voter is on the electoral register and that their details are accurate. However the Ard Fheis is of the view that the Irish Government’s enumeration procedures introduced in 2006 do not achieve this, and instead represent an ‘unreasonable’ restriction on the right to vote, that has had the effect of disenfranchising thousands of eligible voters, with a disproportionate discriminatory impact on voters in working class estates. The Ard Fheis therefore believes that the Irish Government should abandon these procedures, replacing them instead with procedures including affirmative action measures that guarantee that every person with the right to vote is able to freely exercise that vote.
Such measures should include:
· automatic inclusion on the electoral register of all those holding a PPS number.
· household registration.
· annual opportunity to add oneself to or amend one’s details on the register, and a comprehensive review of the register involving a fresh enumeration process every five years.
· a wider range of acceptable forms of identification to include non-photographic ID.
· a broader range of proactive processes for registration, and greater access to registration forms.
· permitting supplementary registration up to seven days before polling day, without the requirement to have forms signed by a member of the Garda Síochána.
This should be done in sufficient time to restore the full franchise in advance of the next general election in the 26 Counties.
116. This Ard Fheis respects the decisions of the 26 County electorate and calls for an end of referendum re-runs within one term of government. A mandate from the electorate must be secured before a referendum is put to the people for a second time.
Seanad/Oireachtas and Electoral Reform
117. This Ard Fheis remains committed to fundamental reform of the political institutions and the electoral process in the 26 Counties to maximise democratic inclusiveness and representativeness, in keeping with republican first principles and the fundamental human right to political participation. The Ard Fheis affirms that our priorities in relation to Oireachtas and electoral reform include:
· creating an inclusive parliament that enables Irish citizens in the 6 Counties as well as in the diaspora to vote and to be represented.
· reducing the voting age to 16.
· increasing the representation of women to reflect their proportion of the population (at least 50%).
· enabling non-Irish citizens legally resident in the country for a reasonable period to vote in general elections should they so choose, in the interests of positive integration.
· establishing enumeration procedures including affirmative action measures and voting procedures that guarantee that every legally eligible voter can freely exercise that right.
· the strengthening of proportional representation through the PR-STV system with larger, multi-seat constituencies (meaning minimum 6 seats).
· ensuring the protection of the integrity of county boundaries in the drawing of electoral constituencies.
· fundamental reform of the Seanad involving the creation of a new upper house that is directly elected, composed of independent sectoral panels representative of the broad interests of civil society rather than political parties, with strengthened powers of legislative scrutiny including EU legislation as proposed by the party in 2003.
118. This Ard Fheis recognises that the corrupt, clientelist and inept system of politics in the 26 Counties squandered the fruits of the economic boom and bears a significant share of the responsibility for the current recession. The political system is dominated by special interests, corrupted by clientelism and dynastic politics, and resistant to change. The Oireachtas has consistently failed to exert sufficient scrutiny over the government and public bodies, and its composition reflects neither the talents nor the diversity of our people. A political system which is a carbon-copy of the British model, largely unreformed since partition, does not equip Ireland to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Sinn Féin believes there is a need for fundamental political reform and commits itself to bring forward a comprehensive all-Ireland policy in this area as soon as practicable.
Such a policy should embrace:
- reform of the electoral system, including giving consideration to the introduction of a list system to elect a proportion of TDs.
- reform of TDs’ and Ministers’ pay and expenses.
- abolition of the Seanad in its current form (and its possible reconstitution along the lines suggested in the party’s 2003 submission on Seanad reform).
- strengthening the capacity of the legislature to hold government to account.
- comprehensive reform of local government on an all-Ireland basis.
- introduction of meaningful mechanisms of participative democracy, including consideration of a citizens’ initiative, to give ordinary citizens a direct input into decision-making.
- examination of the roles of the President and Council of State.
- giving consideration to direct election of the Taoiseach, while allowing the incumbent to appoint cabinet members based on their expertise in relevant areas rather nominating them from among members of the Oireachtas.
- initiating a cull of QUANGOs and unelected bodies to cut back on waste and improve transparency and efficiency in decision making.
- opening a debate on the constitutional and institutional changes that would accompany a United Ireland.
It is furthermore the conviction of this Ard Fheis that the best vehicle for such reform would be the enactment of a new constitution, fully reflective of the values and aspirations of the Irish people today, which would form the basis for a future 32 County Republic.
Cork City Comhairle Ceantair
119. This Ard Fheis calls for the abolition of the senate as it is an undemocratic and unnecessary drain on public finances.
McCabe/Quigley Cumann, Ballymun
Clarke/Smith/Doherty Cumann, Finglas
120. MOTION WITHDRAWN
121. This Ard Fheis calls on Minister Nelson McCausland to honour his duty to serve, respect and engage with all sections of society within the 6 Counties, regardless of their religious background, cultural interest or political opinion.
Frank Ward Cumann, Carrickmore/Creggan, Co. Tyrone
122. This Ard Fheis calls on the Irish Government to deliver on local government reform and enhance the powers of councillors as promised by the Green Party, but not to proceed with council amalgamation proposals and instead retain Town and County Councils in their current form.
Laois/Offaly Comhairle Ceantair
123. This Ard Fheis, in knowledge of the experiences of Dublin’s Docklands communities, calls for an urgent intervention by the 6 County Executive into the development of the Titanic Quarter in Belfast, to ensure maximum benefit for working class communities in terms of social housing, employment and community involvement.
Martin/Treacy Cumann, South and East Belfast
124. This Ard Fheis condemns the activities of An Taisce regarding their secret input into planning matters and especially their constant objection to one-off housing. An Taisce powers should be reverted to those of concern for our heritage alone.
Driver O’Boyle Cumann, West Wicklow