#RealityCheck: What happened to the Five Point Plan and Political Reform?

We cast a critical eye back to see how well the government have met their promsies

#RealityCheck: What happened to the Five Point Plan and Political Reform?

How has the government done on promises of political reform?

"Politicians should lead the way by taking cuts right at the top. Fine Gael will reduce the number of politicians by 35% - fewer TDs and abolition of the Seanad. Salaries for Ministers and Office holders will be capped and a car pool system will replace State cars.

"Major reform will allow the Dail challenge Government decisions, better local government and a Citizens’ Assembly to address major issues like Electoral Reform and Constitutional change."

-Fine Gael's Five Point Plan

Every day this week we have cast a critical eye back over the performance of the Government in the context of the promises made in the five point plan.

So far we’ve had the Budget, Jobs, Health and Public Service Reform and today, we turn our attention to Politics.

Listen: Ivan Yates and Odran Flynn look back at the Government's political reform

So here is what Fine Gael promised:

Politicians should lead from the front by taking pay cuts. Salaries for Ministers and Office holders will be capped and a car pool system will replace State cars.

They would reduce the number of politicians by 35%, with fewer TD’s and the abolition of the Seanad.

The number of days that the Dail sat would be increased by 50%

Major reform will allow the Dail challenge Government decisions.

Better local government.

A Citizens’ Assembly to address major issues like Electoral Reform and Constitutional change.

So how did they do?

In 2013 as part of the Haddington Road Agreement salaries for politicians were cut. The new measures meant that Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s pay dropped from €200,000 to €185,350 while Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore’s pay fell from €184,405 to €171,309.

A Government Minister’s salary fell from €169,275 to €157,540 while a Minister of State has their salary reduced to €121,639 compared to the €130,042 they earned prior to the changes.

A TD’s pay was cut to €87,258 compared to €92,672 – a €5,414 reduction. By contrast, Senators’ pay has been cut by just €621 and they will now earn €65,000.

A car pool arrangement was put in place. Only the Taoiseach, Tanaiste and Minister of Justice now have state cars and Garda drivers.

The number of elected politicians has actually been reduced by 38% which does meet the set target. However the elements that constitute the reduction are quite different to the original plan. The two big ticket changes were to be the reduction of the Dail by 20 seats and the abolition of the Seanad. It is bizarre that a 20 seat Dail reduction was ever muted as it would not have been possible to implement this without a Constitutional Referendum to increase the upper limit of 30,000 population per TD. Even with that restriction the number of TD’s could have been reduced to 153.

The Government did hold a referendum on abolishing the Seanad but a concerted and well organised opposition to the proposal resulted in its defeat.

Despite the main thrust of the opposition being centred on reform of the Seanad, the Government has effectively turned its face against reform and a great opportunity to instigate real change has been lost.

In terms of extra sitting days in the Dail, there were 101 days in 2010 while by 2015 that figure had risen to 123, an increase of 21.7%. This increase is less than half of the promised target.

The only change that could be viewed as reform to challenge Government decisions in the Dail were actually made in the Seanad by the Taoiseach’s nominees being largely unaligned. This put the Government’s majority in the Seanad at risk thereby, in theory at least, of delaying legislation.

All Borough and Town Councils were abolished with the loss of 774 Councillors. The number of City and County Councillors was increased by 66 to 949. In addition a number of Councils were amalgamated, such as Tipperary North and South, and therefore the number of Councils was reduced by 3 to 31.

However Brendan Howlin is on the record stating that the biggest regret he has is abolishing the Town Councils.

A Citizen’s assembly was set up and it recommended a series of items that should be put to a referendum. To date two Referendums have been held, the Same Sex Marriage Referendum and the Age of Eligibility for Election to the office of President.

The former was passed by 62% to 38% while the latter was roundly defeated by 73% to 27%.

On the face of it a lot was achieved but the big major promises were largely unfulfilled.

Final grade: 5 out of 10

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