Some thoughts in the upcoming Ard Fheis


1656 Sanson Map of Guiana, Venezuela, and El D...

1656 Sanson Map of Guiana, Venezuela, and El Dorado - Geographicus - Guiane-sanson-1656 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d thought I’d open up the below efforts to some sort of coverage in advance of the Ard Fheis especially considering some recent press attention on the goings on internally.

There are a number motions submitted for the FG Ard Fheis which were done in advance of the Perry case being heard but which are intended to recalibrate what many members see as the over centralisation of power within the organisation. Both in policy making and in the day to day running of the party. This isn’t about individuals and if I’m honest HQ makes a too easy punch bag for too many people in the local organisation when seeking to deflect attention from their own actions. Rather it’s about the structures that are in place and some of the practices that have grown up around what was an emergency period after 2002 and which at this stage have outlived their usefulness and which a much larger party and one that’s in government no longer requires.

The motions submitted have a focus more on the organisational side. The intention is to rebalance the relationship between the very top of the organisation and the ordinary members. We think it’s time to renew the organisation side and bring ordinary members back into more active participation aside from being election shock troops.

It is possible that the motions won’t make it to the Ard Fheis as the national exec has final say on all motions that get onto the Clár. If that’s the case then we’re going to make that publicly known and seek to confront any efforts that the national exec might take to stymie debate and the efforts of members who are attempting to demonstrate that we can both govern and evolve and reform the party structures for a new age at the same time. I’m not saying for sure that there should be an alternative event organised either on the day of the Ard Fheis or at another time for members rather than elected reps but it’s something to be considered. Being a member has to be about more than filling seats for the telly, dropping leaflets and buying SuperDraw and then being ignored the rest of the time.

One of the simplest but also possibly most significant measures is to separate the role of party leader and party president. The intention is that the party president elected by the members at the Ard Fheis would be more directly responsible to the members and in time it may make sense for the paid party officials including the General Secretary to report to the holder of this position and not the party leader in the Oireachtas The thinking is that the party officials would find it easier to not get caught up too much with the party leader but more to the wider party. Think in terms of the Chair of the DNC or RNC in the US.

Below are some of the motions in more detail

·        Election of national Exec Members by ordinary members to be changed from 12 to 16 via 4 separate contests in 3 seater panels for each of the current 4 old Euro constituencies, with the remaining 4 positions filled from the 4 highest ranking candidates from those same panels prior to their elimination.

o   This would allow for candidates to be elected who might garner support across the country along with regional candidates,

o   it would encourage more competition,

o   lessen the value of incumbency

o   ensure a higher turnout for all elections at the Ard Fheis at times when the organisation wants people to be around and active.

  • National Executive members may serve for only 2 consecutive terms before standing down for a minimum of one term. The one term absence to be a minimum of 18 months.

At present a 3 term/year limit applies to all other positions in the local organisation (branch or Constituency chairs etc. but not at the national level, even though their terms run for 2 or so years at time!)

  • The position of party leader and party president to be mutually exclusive.

Being the leader of the party, and Taoiseach and party president are demanding positions, one of those is being to be neglected in comparison to the other roles and party president is the one most likely. Hence we believe it should be occupied by someone else.

·        The role of the Ard Fheis should be much more about ordinary members having their say and the party reps listening to them, and not reps or prospective candidates getting some time to practice their public speaking technique.

·        Deadline of submission of motions to be a defined period, say 8 weeks, before the holding of the Ard Fheis. At present it’s not known or publicised until quite late.

·        All motions submitted for the Ard Fheis to be published on the party website the day after the deadline for submission of motions.

·        A facility to allow party members directly select, in advance, a percentage say 30% of motions to be debated per session by use of PR STV (online).

·        The Finalised Motions for the Ard Fheis to be circulated a minimum of 1 week in advance of the Ard Fheis.

At present the Clar is often only circulated on the Thursday evening before the Ard Fheis starts.

  • Party delegates allowed to vote at the Ard Fheis on a percentage of policy motions say 33% which would be fully binding on the party until the next Ard Fheis.

·        Time must be allocated for genuine debate on party motions, with opposing speakers allocated equal time to those proposing motions.

·        Time should be allocated for contributions from the floor on party motions, with speakers who may be oppose to motions allocated time fairly by the Chair.

Too often no time is allowed or no one is even invited to make an opposing contribution, and people are told there’s no time. Plan for it. this is the only opportunity members have to make their contribution.

  • The person from a branch who submits a motion should have first refusal on speaking on the motion. Only if they are agreeable or unavailable should a public rep or other party member speak proposing this motion.

Too often, an elected rep is invited to speak on a motion they didn’t submit or have minimal interest in, just so they can get some practice speaking. This is not the forum for that.

·        External people should not be allowed make speeches at a Ard Fheis without an opportunity for party members to question them. A minimum of equal time should be scheduled for such questions. i.e. a speech of 15 minutes should have a minimum of 15 time for contributions from the floor. This is separate from reps who may be sharing a panel with the guest speaker.

In some recent Ard Fheiseanna speakers from outside the party were invited to make contributions that were then unchallengeable because there was “no time”.

  • Public reps who act (voting on councils elsewhere) against motions to be lose the party whip automatically. – specifically I’m thinking of those cllrs who voted against the referendum on a directly elected Mayor for Dublin. It was party policy proposed and endorsed at an Ard Fheis that the people of Dublin would get the referendum and our own cllrs in Fingal denied them that chance. With no consequences for them at all.
  • Suggestion for recognition for the motion of the Ard Fheis/Best speech/ best floor contribution.
  • To examine more opportunities for fringe type events that don’t involve motions but which would act to allow ordinary members to express their views as feedback to the party’s reps.
  • Opportunity for unconferencing techniques to develop policy ideas or future areas of focus.

o   These could be Friday night events that feed into the Saturday agenda.

Anyway, it’s just a few ideas, and sure who’s afraid of those.

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1 Response to Some thoughts in the upcoming Ard Fheis

  1. I think some of these seem like sensible plans to take up. Whatever FG do they really need to try get their leadership back in touch with ordinary people. Perhaps this could be a step in that direction? There certainly is a perception out there that the FG leadership are out of touch with ordinary people’s lives, and if this goes unaddressed it will most definitely come back to bite the party.

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