Influencing a minority government
The danger that the political dynamic of a minority led government will lead to the avoidance of difficult decisions is very real. While political reform is a key part of the government’s programme, political expediency may undermine important policy priorities. Also, the dynamic for those influencing government policy has changed dramatically with the new imperative to engage with a broader range of public representatives, as well ministers, advisors and civil servants. This will include Fianna Fáil, the largest opposition party.
The Committee structure has also become an important part of the new political architecture. It is likely that Bills will be open to more amendments than previously. The Seanad it is expected to have a reduced role this time due to a lack of a Government majority. However, it can still delay bills. The programme’s commitment to make panels of outside experts available to committees is positive and should increase business relevant input. The Government has committed to allowing all opposition (non-money) Bills that pass 2nd stage to progress to Committee stage within 10 working weeks. While many will not proceed further, they will be debated publicly. This is important in the context of retaining a pro-business legislative environment.
It is unclear how broader policy issues which do not require specific or immediate legislation will be handled by government. Previously, on significant policy issues where deliberations were required, a specially charged committee was established from which a report and recommendations were issued. It is likely that there will be further consultations by government on these recommendations in order to gain political support from a broader range of parties and independent deputies.
Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael agreement
The key features of Fianna Fáil’s commitment to Fine Gael are:
- Abstain in the election of Taoiseach, nomination of Ministers and also the reshuffling of Ministers;
- Facilitate Budgets consistent with the agreed policy principles attached to parties’ agreement;
- Vote against or abstain on any motions of no confidence in the Government, Ministers and financial measures (eg money bills) recognised as confidence measures; and pairing arrangements for EU Council meetings, North South meetings and other Government business as agreed.
Key features of Fine Gael’s commitment to Fianna Fáil are:
- Accept that Fianna Fáil is an independent party in opposition and is not a party to the Programme for Government;
- Recognise Fianna Fáil’s right to bring forward policy proposals and bills to implement commitments in its own manifesto;
- Publish all agreements with Independent Deputies and other political parties in full.
- Allow any opposition Bills (that are not money bills) that pass 2nd stage, proceed to Committee stage within 10 working weeks;
- Implement the agreed policy principles attached to this document over a full term of Government.