Kenny now walking the walk
Enda Kenny can certainly talk the talk — he did so in abundance during the General Election campaign. But now he is proving he can also walk the walk.
This week the Government published upcoming political reforms which were part of its election promises and which were sought by the public.
Just 10 weeks into his role as Taoiseach Kenny is looking as fresh faced and upbeat as he was at the start of the election campaign, and it is his optimism and positive outlook that are giving the people a sense that we can rise from the ashes of this awful recession. It is not going to happen any time soon, but at least if we can see the right steps being taken then the bitter pill of hardship is easier to swallow.
The first change on the horizon is a reduction in the number of TDs by as many as 20. Currently there is one TD for every 25,000 population and this could be reduced to one for every 30,000 for the next Dáil due to be elected in 2016. People have become sceptical about how the political system works and these reforms must be just the first step in cleaning up the system.
With the presidential election due in November there will be a spending limit of €750,000 for candidates, down from €1.3 million, which represents the more frugal times we live in. There will also be a reduction in the amount candidates are reimbursed if they reach a certain percentage vote, from €260,000 to €200,000.
Bye-elections will have to be held within six months and this will stamp out the farcical situation of the last government which delayed the holding of the Donegal South West bye-election by almost a year and a half.
A Constitution Convention will be held this year and will include discussions on the future of the Seanad. A referendum on the abolition of the Seanad will be held in the second half of next year.
Legislation to ban corporate donations will be enacted by summer.
The reforms announced on Wednesday follow others already taken by Kenny which include a reduction in the pay of the Taoiseach and ministers, and the removal of an automatic entitlement to State cars and drivers.
In an Irish Times interview this week Taoiseach Kenny has admitted the scale of the problems faced by Ireland is enormous. But he added that the opportunity to get so many things right is brilliant. It is this kind of enthusiasm and genuine energy for the job that has endeared Kenny to the electorate.
He has been given a mandate to sort the country out and with all guns blazing that is what he is striving towards. So far he is showing the kind of leadership the country craves and which was desperately lacking over the last couple of years.
Next Tuesday the Government will publish its jobs initiative which will follow a visit by the Taoiseach to New York this week where he will be trying to encourage US investment in Ireland. Armed with the mighty tool of a 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate the Taoiseach will be ensuring our American friends that Ireland is open for business.
With just over a year to go before the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad some real debate is required. Although the Seanad elections are just over, the role and functions of this house go way over the heads of most of the ordinary people of this country and it is hard to expect us to decide on its future without understanding its function and the implications for our political system if it is removed