Belfast Telegraph

Academics criticise Government plan

A team of academics has criticised elements of the Programme for Government, claiming its proposals to reform local government and elections are weak.

The blueprint for power scored 68 for its ideas on revamping the political and public sectors - on a par with Labour's election manifesto but down more than five points on Fine Gael's.

The test by reformcard.com claimed the senior coalition party had dropped three of its pre-election promises, including electing the Ceann Comhairle by secret ballot, reducing the number of junior ministers and opening up government to the public.

Dr Jane Suiter, of University College Cork, branded measures on reforming local authorities vague and superficial.

"While some promising commitments are made, particularly in the area of providing proper funding of local government through the introduction of a site valuation tax and enhancing the power of councillors to demand accountability from public servants, there are prominent weaknesses in the proposals.

"Measures to enhance citizen participation seem vague and measures aimed at consolidating our fragmented system of local government are very superficial."

The panel - consisting of eight academics from UCD, Trinity College, UCC, DCU, and Vrije University in Amsterdam - said the plans for reform of local government and elections were weak, claiming it signalled a reluctance to take on the tougher reform proposals contained in the manifesto documents of parties that ranked stronger in the area during the election campaign, such as the Greens.

Dr Eoin O'Malley, of Dublin City University, said the Programme for Government scored particularly badly in the area of reforming the Oireachtas.

"While several important measures such as enhancing the powers of committees and the Ceann Comhairle to hold ministers to account are proposed, it is unclear if these institutions, which after all remain controlled by the Government, will have any real incentive to do so," Dr O'Malley said. "Also, there are few effective measures to empower the opposition parties."

The founders of reformcard.com, Joe Curtin and Johnny Ryan, said they would track the Government's progress in translating promises into real reform.

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