Democratic Reform Urgently Needed - RCDC

RCDC Chairman John Lupton is appealing to people, and in particular, all those involved in community and voluntary activity including those from organisations affiliated to RCDC to be pro-active in seeking to bring about democratic reform.

RCDC Chairman John Lupton is appealing to people, and in particular, all those involved in community and voluntary activity including those from organisations affiliated to RCDC to be pro-active in seeking to bring about democratic reform.

He argues that it is democratic rather then political reform which is needed in the Country at the present time, insisting that, as he proposes, the formalization of participative democracy into the Country's Parliamentary structure, while in itself being a radical reform, would also act as a catalyst in bringing about widespread democratic reform and would restore people's trust in the structures and workings of democracy.

In this regard he says that the Senate should not be abolished but that, in his opinion, politicians should be removed from the Senate and that it should be a Parliamentary House of Participative Democracy. It would be a shame, he says, to abolish the Senate, an act perceived by some politician's, at least, to be the populist thing to do, and to endeavour to sell it to the people as 'reform!'

"There has, sadly", he says, "been huge public disillusionment with the political system and there is a growing perception that it has become self serving, with a priority emphasis on 'self preservation.' Therefore, there is the perception, at least, that fiduciary responsibility, marked by a complete lack of self interest, is something which, to say the least, is not always readily seen in the political system i.e. in representative democracy. I contrast this with the striking sense of fiduciary responsibility manifested in the numerous people from the community and voluntary sector, many of whom I have had the privilege of meeting on an on-going basis in Roscrea and in North Tipperary, through various community and voluntary organizations, who selflessly, involve themselves in participative democracy for the benefit of community and society without any personal self interest or reward."

"In the absence of a Town Council in Roscrea, RCDC and other organizations, through participative democracy, endeavour to make Roscrea a better place to live. Likewise through the good offices of CAVA, volunteers, again through participative democracy, sit on various committees and Boards at County level including North Tipperary Co. Co.'s Strategic Policy Committees, the County Development Board, the County Enterprise Board, the County Sports Partnership, the Joint Policing Committees, the Regional Drugs task force, North Tipperary Leader Partnership Board and its various sub and advisory committees, to mention but some. This is all voluntary work where 'fiduciary responsibility' i.e. devoid of self interest, is the motivating factor. Therefore, imagine what this outpouring of participative democracy could do at national Parliamentary level and how it would enhance, rather than diminish, our existing political system?"

"Hence, I would propose that the Senate, our upper House of Parliament, would draw its membership exclusively from the community and voluntary sector and from the constituency of graduates from all our third level educational institutions. The community and voluntary sector representatives would be elected on a county basis. Members of the Senate would not be remunerated and would merely have expenses reimbursed at the same rate and on the same basis as the lowest paid civil servants. In order to bring as much experience and expertise as possible into government and to complete the thus proposed duality of the two organs of democracy at parliamentary level, I would suggest that it would be a statutory requirement for an incoming Taoiseach to draw 20% of his/her Cabinet from the membership of the Senate. If there is a preoccupation with reducing the numbers of Oirechtais members, the membership of the Dil should be reduced by the numerical membership of the Senate.

In Roscrea we sought unsuccessfully to have, in the absence of a Town Council, "Association Status", under the provisions of the 2001 Local Government Act. I would propose that each town and village community would have such an "Association" and where towns have a town council that these would be replaced by "Associations". Members of the Associations would not be remunerated. The "Associations", however, could be called 'Town' or 'Community' Councils. These would be 'Associations' of participative democracy with a particular linkage with the Senate, which would be the participative democracy House of Parliament. The 'Associations' would also have a unique linkage with the politically elected representative democratic County Councils, which would have greater powers.

I would urge that we at least begin the journey of mindset change and have the courage to dream of structures that never were and challenge our present day 'disillusionment' and 'apathy', which is destroying the spirit of the people, especially those who desperately looking for hope."