Time to modernise and vitalise our parliamentary system


Last Sunday on the Marian Finucane show on RTE Radio 1, I participated in a discussion about the Irish legislature and how it needs modernisation, especially in the light of recent controversy. But it is not just that the Dail needs more constitutional powers and more relevance. Even as a place to visit, it feels old fashioned, needlessly formal and not reflective of the variety, colour and vitality of modern Irish society, as I wrote in this Sunday Independent piece a year ago. Our parliament doesn’t just need a ‘gender quota’, it needs a ‘youth quota’ and an ‘entrepreneurial quota’ to reflect our too often neglected business culture.


How about some modern art on the walls, for example, or sculpture, or big photos of modern Irish society, rather than all this varnished wood and adherence to tradition and endless rules? Recently, I visited the Reichstag in Berlin, and the rebuilt German parliament, with its extraordinary glass dome designed by Norman Foster, where the public can go up on the roof and look straight down into the parliament. There is a rooftop restaurant and the whole thing is a big tourist attraction. The Germans, because of their history presumably, have demystified the whole parliament thing.