02 July 2009

Gilmore speaks up against Cowen's 'Guillotine'

Eamon Gilmore (photo), the leader of Ireland's Labour Party, has accused the government of "riding rough-shot over the Irish people and their elected representatives".

He deserves a strong round of applause for this statement, and all the support we - the people of Ireland - can give him.
Why? Because Gilmore stood up and defended the interests of us, the people, and of Democracy against an ever more dictatorial and arrogant government.

Eamon Gilmore objected strongly to the way the Taoiseach and his ministers are pushing bills though the Dáil without having a full and proper debate over them.

This procedure - in parliamentary slang called 'the guillotine' - is an arcane relic from colonial times and part of the British political system. And one has to wonder why it is still practised in Ireland, after 90 years of self-rule.

The Labour leader told the Dáil that the government has taken the use of the 'guillotine' on bills "to a new level of ridiculousness", pointing out that twelve bills are about to be 'guillotined' next week on top of those that were dealt with today.
"It is not unusual for this government to use the guillotine to push through legislation, just to get it out of the way or to minimise the amount of public attention that it will get," Gilmore said.

Another reason for using the 'guillotine' method is usually that a government is 'running out of time' on a bill, which means that the amount of days and hours allocated to it has been used up before a bill reaches the stage of the final vote. In Britain this happens regularly towards the end of the parliamentary year. And in order to avoid that the same bill has to go through all its stages again in the new parliamentary year, the government applies the so-called 'guillotine'.

But here in Ireland we do not have a 'parliamentary year' which is opened ceremonially by a monarch.
Our Dáil is elected for a maximum period of five years. So bills should never 'run out of time' here, and thus there should be no need for the 'guillotine' method.

If a bill 'runs out of time' in Ireland, it is usually because of bad planning or mismanagement by the government. And using the 'guillotine' method to push it through without proper debate and discussion shows indeed a great disrespect for the people of Ireland - in whose name the laws are made - and for the TDs, who are the people's elected deputies.
The 'guillotine', in its parliamentary sense, is in fact an instrument of dictatorship, as much as its namesake was an instrument of terror during the French Revolution.

There would be an easy way to avoid any bills 'running out of time', regardless for what reasons: The Dáil should simply sit and debate on more days than it does now. There is no justification for a three-month-long summer holiday and all the other holiday 'recesses' our parliament grants itself. On average the Dáil only sits between 70 and 75 days in each full calendar year.
This is unacceptable, and it would not be tolerated in any other institution or sector.

The amount of parliamentary holidays should be reduced to the same amount of days that an average industrial worker is entitled to. And one should also look at the current three-day week of the Dáil. If our TDs would work five days a week like anyone else in the country (some people, like yours truly, even work six or seven days a week), there would be no bill 'running out of time' and no point in the 'guillotine' method.

To my knowledge there are only very few countries where this method is accepted at all. It is of course practised in Britain, the country that invented it, and in some Commonwealth countries that still follow their masters in every way. And - to my astonishment - in Ireland as well, as if we were still part of the British Empire.
I know of no other European country where such a procedure exists, and I doubt that it would be accepted or tolerated by the politicians there. Only the people and politicians of Britain and of her still obedient servant Ireland are treated by their governments in such an unacceptable and dictatorial way.

It is well over time already to abolish such an arcane and offensive parliamentary instrument, and to make it illegal in Ireland. I encourage Eamon Gilmore and the Labour Party to make this point a part of their next election manifesto.

The Emerald Islander

No comments:

Post a Comment