Belfast Telegraph

Labour announces reform package

The Labour Party vowed today to scrap the Seanad within the lifetime of the next government as part of a massive political reform package.

Leader Eamon Gilmore also promised TDs holidays would be slashed and the Dail would sit five days a week to allow more debate on planned laws.

Mr Gilmore said his party was committing itself to 140 separate measures that would spark a radical overhaul of a broken system of government and an archaic Dail.

"The rules under which the Dail work are essentially the same rules as when the Dail first met following Independence," he said.

"Any of the people who were there in the 1920s, if they came back today they wouldn't recognise the country but they would recognise the Dail."

Among the measures proposed are: a constitutional convention made up of 30 TDs, 30 organisations from business and civic society and 30 citizens to draw up changes to the constitution within a year; abolition of the Seanad, pending a referendum; a 50% increase in Dail sitting days along with a reduction in holidays including midterm breaks and the week off for St Patrick's Day and Halloween; a statutory register of government lobbyists; an overhaul of the public service with a senior Cabinet minister appointed to oversee a raft of changes, including making civil servants more accountable and transparent.

The reform blueprint, some of which has been drawn from Oireachtas constitutional and reform committees, also allows for all TDs to bring about legislation and amendments.

Mr Gilmore said it would rebalance the relationship between the Dail and the executive, putting a greater emphasis on the work of individual TDs.

Brendan Howlin, Labour's constitutional matters and law reform spokesman, said the proposals would make the Oireachtas a more "normal European operation".

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