Tuesday 22 January 2019

Our political system is broken, and we're on a mission to fix it

WE keep hearing that our broken political system needs fixing. While changing the way we do politics may not dig Ireland out of an economic hole, it will ensure that we do not repeat the same mistakes again.

Elections are designed to provide opportunities for change. However, Irish voters today seem confused and frustrated.

They are asking questions: What are the various policies on reform? Which party is promising to go the farthest in reforming the political system? How can I be sure that they will not break their manifesto promise after the election? And, is real change and a brighter future possible?


This led us to establish our new website -- www.reformcard.com -- which will answer these questions for voters.

Reformcard.com will rate the various political parties reform policies. In a society where we rate footballers after a soccer game, homes and fridges for their energy use, books and movies for their entertainment, why not rate political reform?

Reformcard.com asked a panel of independent experts to read each party's manifesto and to rate them in five areas: electoral reform, open government, local government, Dail reform and public sector reform.

Yesterday, we released our initial scoring at reformcard. com, based on each party's manifesto. A full breakdown of the results in each area, with helpful comments from our experts, can be viewed on www.reformcard.com.

The headline scores, marked out of a maximum 100 points are: Fine Gael 73, Labour 68, Fianna Fail 58, Green Party 53 and Sinn Fein 26.

The important thing to note here is that, though one party came out on top overall, each party showed strengths and weaknesses.

Fine Gael scored highest in open government reform and joint highest with Labour on public sector reform. Fianna Fail scored highest on Oireachtas reform, and Sinn Fein scored highest on electoral reform. The Green Party scored highest on local government reform, but scoring was very poor in this area in general.

All politics is local, but reform isn't all it seems!

It is not too late for parties to come forward with more reform ideas. Reformcard.com will rate these too. In fact, Sinn Fein and the Greens have already requested that we rate some new ideas -- and we hope to do so. But remember, this is about the parties' manifesto documents first and foremost, as it is manifesto documents that impact on what governments actually do. The next steps for Reformcard.com is to rate the programme for government following the General Election.


This will enable voters to establish if promises from manifestoes have been kept, and been improved by comparing them with what other parties have proposed.

Then, as the next government begins, Reformcard.com will begin to monitor implementation of the reforms. The idea is to make sure that promises do not quietly fall off the radar once the spotlight is off -- once the new Government is formed.

A growing community of internet volunteers, policy researchers, data visualisers and programmers are lending their support to Reformcard. com, and are beginning to build the framework necessary to track the progress of legislation.

This is something novel in Irish politics -- civic entrepreneurism. People giving their time freely to create a system to ensure that reforms are implemented, not added to the scrap heap of broken promises.

We will continue to update the media regularly to ensure the spotlight remains on reform, even while more immediate concerns are being addressed by Government.


We have recently witnessed how online social media and internet communities can play a role in overthrowing a dictator in Egypt. While here in Ireland we have no dictator to ditch, we do have a broken political system to fix.

We hope that this website can play a role in this process by ensuring that political reform remains a priority in the next government.

Joe Curtin and Johnny Ryan are co-founders of Reformcard.com

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