Last Past the Post

At a recent Meet the Bloggers event, John Gormley spoke about a plan to reduce the influence of clientelism in Irish politics.

The Greens want a hybrid combining the single transferable vote with a list system, so that 150 or so TDs are directly elected, with the balance of seats going on a party basis to those candidates who don’t quite make it.

Since the additional TDs are still voted on the basis of a single transferable vote, Gormley believes the change would not need a referendum, though the attorney general has yet to comment.

The Greens think their reform would make TDs less likely to fret over every voter looking to get a pothole filled or a medical card sorted.

It won’t work.

First, how do we decide which of the varied independents gets the seat their 10% of first preferences merits? And how do we decide who the fastest loser is, when turnout and constituency size vary so much?

But leaving that decide, the premise doesn’t hold water. In Ireland’s hybrid list system, the fastest losers win. They would still have just as much incentive as every other political hopeful to chase the pothole and medical card vote.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.


  1. I actually don’t underestand the concept as Gormley has attempted to present it but the concept of a list system that fills c. 30% of the available seats on a basis that is proportional to the national vote with membership of the list being being vetted by SIPO / a version of the Council of State or something like that on the basis of real world criteria around proven adminstrative and leadership skills might have some merit. That’s top of the head and somone could probably drive a (constitutional law) coach and four through it, but we are not short of democratic representation in this country – we are short of leadership, direction and decision making. It is not apparent to me that the two are mutually dependant

  2. That wouldn’t work without a referendum, as the 1/3 would then be appointed by committee, not chosen by the people. Gormley I think wants a system he can get through without a referendum, so is proposing that the fastest runners-up from around the country should be appointed to the Dáil, at least that’s how I understood it. That way, they are still technically chosen by the voters using PR/STV. As explained, it won’t mean and end to clientelism, because every potential TD would still need to either make the first cut or fastest runner up in order to get elected, so they’d still chase every medical card application for a vote. What it might do is increase turnout, as each voter has the prize of an additional TD in the Dáil if they enough of them vote. But that too could bring constitutional problems.

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