Ireland

   

Executive Capacity

#12
Key Findings
With a few notable gaps despite increasingly strong performance, Ireland scores well (rank 12) with regard to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.4 points since 2014.

While strategic planning improved in the post-crisis period, recent spending increases have shown a susceptibility to popular pressures. The Department of the Taoiseach grown substantially over the years, but most policymaking takes place in the line ministries. Cabinet committees are routinely used for interministerial coordination.

Though RIAs are in principle required for all regulatory changes, the range of such assessments appears narrow in practice. The frequency of budgetary overruns indicates that ex post evaluation of policy is insufficient. Aging water and sewer infrastructures pose costs that the electorate appears unprepared to accept.

The increased use of statutory instruments giving ministers the ability to shape policy implementation has transferred power from the legislature to the executive. Regulations tend to be enforced in an unbiased way. A relatively new local property tax has helped fund vital local public services.

Strategic Capacity

#20

How much influence do strategic planning units and bodies have on government decision-making?

10
 9

Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions, and they exercise strong influence on government decision-making.
 8
 7
 6


Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Their influence on government decision-making is systematic but limited in issue scope or depth of impact.
 5
 4
 3


Strategic planning units and bodies take a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions. Occasionally, they exert some influence on government decision-making.
 2
 1

In practice, there are no units and bodies taking a long-term view of policy challenges and viable solutions.
Strategic Planning
7
There is some evidence that Irish policymakers improved their strategic-planning capacity since the period in the immediate aftermath of the crisis. The annual reports on the Programme for Government detail a more coherent strategic approach to policymaking and increased use of advisory bodies.

However, independent advice is not always followed. Popular pressures for increased spending and tax reductions influenced government decisions in the 2016 budget, reflecting the proximity of a general election. The Fiscal Advisory Council and the Economic and Social Research Institute have urged the government to devote more of the revenue gains arising from the recent economic improvement to a faster reduction of the budget deficit, at the expense of lower taxes and increased spending. However, the imposition of limits on mortgage lending during 2015, intended to moderate the rise in home prices, is a welcome example of unpopular but prudent strategic thinking.

During the 2011 to 2016 government and current minority government, detailed reports were published by the government monitoring annual progress on implementing the Programme for Government.

Does the government regularly take into account advice from non-governmental experts during decision-making?

10
 9

In almost all cases, the government transparently consults with non-governmental experts in the early stages of government decision-making.
 8
 7
 6


For major political projects, the government transparently consults with non-governmental experts in the early stages of government decision-making.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, the government transparently consults with non-governmental experts in the early stages of government decision-making.
 2
 1

The government does not consult with non-governmental experts, or existing consultations lack transparency entirely and/or are exclusively pro forma.
Expert Advice
5
In 2009, Professor Patrick Honohan of Trinity College Dublin was appointed governor of the Central Bank of Ireland. This marked a break with the tradition that the retiring permanent secretary of the Department of Finance would succeed to the governorship. Following his retirement toward the end of 2015, the government announced the appointment of another academic, Professor Philip Lane of Trinity College Dublin, as his replacement.

The Fiscal Advisory Council is an independent statutory body, comprising five experts, mainly drawn from academia. It was established in 2011 as part of a wider reform of Ireland’s budgetary procedures. The council is required to “independently assess, and comment publicly on, whether the government is meeting its own stated budgetary targets and objectives.” The claim made by the council’s chairman, Professor John McHale of University College Galway, that the 2016 budget violated the rules of the European Union’s Stability and Growth Pact received much publicity. This assertion, however, was quickly withdrawn following a rebuttal by the minister for finance. Nonetheless, the council stuck to its criticism of the 2016 budget as excessively expansionary. Following his retirement, Professor McHale, was replaced as chairman of the Fiscal Advisory Council by Professor Seamus Coffey of University College Cork. Given Fiscal Advisory Council’s (IFAC) highly critical report of the government’s budgetary strategy in November 2018, it will be interesting to see the extent to which the government takes into account the criticisms of (1) excessive increases in public-sector expenditure and (2) the need to build up buffer funds out of buoyant tax revenues to meet unforeseen future contingencies.

Academics have regularly held advisory posts in government ministries, including the Prime Minister’s Office and the Department of Finance. Advisers meet regularly with their ministers but there is no information on the impact on policymaking of the advice proffered. There is no established pattern of open consultations with panels of non-governmental experts and academics, although some ad hoc arrangements have been made from time to time.

Citations:
Academics are active in several recently-formed independent blogs that may have some influence on policy maker.
These include:
http://www.irisheconomy.ie
http://www.publicpolicy.ie
http://www.politicalreform.ie
http://www.nerinstitute.net

Interministerial Coordination

#14

Does the government office / prime minister’s office (GO / PMO) have the expertise to evaluate ministerial draft bills according to the government’s priorities?

10
 9

The GO / PMO provides regular, independent evaluations of draft bills for the cabinet / prime minister. These assessments are guided exclusively by the government’s priorities.
 8
 7
 6


The GO / PMO evaluates most draft bills according to the government’s priorities.
 5
 4
 3


The GO / PMO can rely on some sectoral policy expertise but does not evaluate draft bills.
 2
 1

The GO / PMO does not have any sectoral policy expertise. Its role is limited to collecting, registering and circulating documents submitted for cabinet meetings.
GO Expertise
7
The influence and effectiveness of the Irish Prime Minister’s Office (Department of the Taoiseach) is limited by a dearth of analytical skills. One frequently made criticism focused on the continued reliance on “generalist” recruitment to the civil service.

The department is focused on strategic policy issues and the delivery of the Programme for Government. The Department of the Taoiseach has steadily grown over the years from about 30 people in 1977 to just over 200 in 2017. The Department of Finance is much larger with over 500 people. The Department of the Taoiseach coordinates policy in specific policy areas (e.g., Northern Ireland, European affairs and, the current hot topic, Brexit). Nevertheless, most policymaking continues to take place in the line ministries.

An expert group on strengthening civil service accountability and performance reported to government in May 2014. Among the numerous recommendations it made, it proposed the establishment of an accountability board for the civil service, chaired by the taoiseach but including external members. This board would be tasked with reviewing and constructively challenging the performance of senior management as well as monitoring progress on the delivery of agreed-upon priorities. It also recommended that the Irish Civil Service be given an appointed head. The government rejected the proposal for a head of civil service, but an accountability board with independent members was established in May 2015.

Citations:
The report of the Independent Panel on Strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance is available here:
http://www.per.gov.ie/civil-service-accountability-consultation-process/

Niamh Hardiman, Aidan Regan and Mary Shayne (2012), ‘The Core Executive: the Department of the Taoiseach and the Challenge of Policy Coordination,’ in Eoin O’Malley and Muiris MacCarthaigh (eds). Governing Ireland: from Cabinet Government to Delegated Governance. Dublin: IPA.

To what extent do line ministries involve the government office/prime minister’s office in the preparation of policy proposals?

10
 9

There are inter-related capacities for coordination between GO/PMO and line ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The GO/PMO is regularly briefed on new developments affecting the preparation of policy proposals.
 5
 4
 3


Consultation is rather formal and focuses on technical and drafting issues.
 2
 1

Consultation occurs only after proposals are fully drafted as laws.
Line Ministries
9
The Prime Minister’s Office is involved in legislative and expenditure proposals. The process is a highly interactive with much feedback between the line ministries, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General. The Department of Finance has considerable input into all proposals with revenue or expenditure implications. Any significant policy items have to be discussed in advance with the Department of the Taoiseach. The Cabinet Handbook lays out detailed procedural rules for the discussion of policy proposals and the drafting of legislation. It is publicly available on the website of the Department of the Taoiseach.

As in many countries, the Department of Finance is a lot more than a regular “line ministry.” The procedures state:
“As a matter of principle, the sanction of the minister for finance is required for all expenditure. In any proposal for new legislation, it should be made clear that the sanction of the Minister for Finance is required to incur any expenditure under the legislation. Neither the voting of money by Dáil Éireann, nor the inclusion of an allocation in an Estimate constitutes sanction” (Department of Finance 2008: Public Financial Procedures).

How effectively do ministerial or cabinet committees coordinate cabinet proposals?

10
 9

The vast majority of cabinet proposals are reviewed and coordinated first by committees.
 8
 7
 6


Most cabinet proposals are reviewed and coordinated by committees, in particular proposals of political or strategic importance.
 5
 4
 3


There is little review or coordination of cabinet proposals by committees.
 2
 1

There is no review or coordination of cabinet proposals by committees. Or: There is no ministerial or cabinet committee.
Cabinet Committees
7
Cabinet committees are established by the government and managed by the Department of the Taoiseach. Cabinet committees derive their authority from government. Membership of cabinet committees includes cabinet ministers, ministers of state (junior ministers) and may also include the attorney general.

When a policy area cuts across departmental boundaries or is an urgent priority (e.g., Brexit) a common response is to set up a cabinet committee. The number of committees, and their relative size and composition is very much at the discretion of the taoiseach, so there is no semi-permanent standing committee structure as there is in some other countries.

For example, under the 2002 – 2007 government, there were 11 cabinet committees, whereas under the following government there were only six.

This means that many government ministers will serve on multiple cabinet committees. In 2011, the minister for finance was a member of five out of eight cabinet committees. The essential job of cabinet committees is to coordinate policy initiatives, especially when substantive policy proposals concern multiple line ministries.

In 2016, there were 10 cabinet committees. The most recent addition focuses on Brexit, while other cabinet committees focus on the economy, trade and jobs; housing; health care; social policy and public-sector reform; justice reform; European affairs; regional and rural affairs; infrastructure, environment and climate change; and the arts, Irish culture and the Gaeltacht.
Each of the cabinet committees is supported by a group of senior officials who meet in advance of the committee to prepare agendas and identify problem areas. During the 2000s, “it has been reported that cabinet committees were attended not only by cabinet members but also by senior officials and often heads of agencies too.” (Hardiman et al, 116).

When Leo Varadkar became the taoiseach (prime minister) in June 2017 he reduced the number of cabinet committees to seven (economy, social policy and public services, European Union including Brexit, infrastructure, heath care, national security, and justice and equality). They ranged in size from health care with eight members to social policy with 20. In terms of their official composition, members are a mixture of full cabinet ministers and ministers of state (e.g., the cabinet committee for the economy is composed of 10 cabinet ministers and five ministers of state). The minister for finance is a member of six out of the seven committees. The minister for foreign affairs is a member of all of seven committees, mostly likely because he is also the tanaiste (deputy prime minister).

Cabinet committees are chaired by the taoiseach or a senior official of the Department of the Taoiseach. Cabinet committees generally make policy recommendations, which are followed up by a formal memo to the government.

Citations:
For information about Cabinet Committee see:
http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Taoiseach_and_Government/Cabinet_Committees

Niamh Hardiman, Aidan Regan and Mary Shayne ‘The Core Executive: The Department of the Taoiseach and the Challenge of Policy Coordination, in Eoin O’Malley and Muiris MacCarthaigh (eds, 2012), Governing Ireland: From Cabinet Government to Delegated Governance. Dublin: IPA.

How effectively do ministry officials/civil servants coordinate policy proposals?

10
 9

Most policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
 8
 7
 6


Many policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
 5
 4
 3


There is some coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
 2
 1

There is no or hardly any coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
Ministerial Bureaucracy
6
Responsibility for policy coordination lies with the Prime Minister’s Office (Department of the Taoiseach). However, to be truly effective in this area the office would require greater analytical expertise across many policy areas than it has at present. Despite much rhetoric about “joined-up government,” the coordination of policy proposals across ministries has traditionally been relatively weak, with conflicting policies pursued in different parts of the civil service. For example, employment creation can take precedence over environmental considerations and local planning processes often do not mesh with national housing policies.

While coordination across government is often an up-hill battle, the development of the cabinet committee system has somewhat improved matters. Hardiman et al (2012, p.120) conclude, “perhaps the most significant organizational change aimed at improving cross-departmental coordination has been the growing reliance on the cabinet committee system: “Most of the major policy initiatives – health, environment, climate change, economic renewal – all will have gone through the cabinet committees. So that is a big change in the system of governance … They provide a mechanism to manage complex cross-cutting issues’ (Interview B, 1 Nov 2009).”
Another source of interdepartmental coordination stems from the practice of cabinet and junior ministers each appointing their own “special adviser.” These advisers meet to debate policy proposals: O’Malley and Martin (2018, p265) comment that “the advisers collectively operate in effect as a lower-level cabinet.”

Citations:
Niamh Hardiman, Aidan Regan and Mary Shayne ‘The Core Executive: The Department of the Taoiseach and the Challenge of Policy Coordination, in Eoin O’Malley and Muiris MacCarthaigh (eds, 2012), Governing Ireland: From Cabinet Government to Delegated Governance. Dublin: IPA.

Eoin O’Malley and Shane Martin, ‘The Government and the Taoiseach,’ in John Coakley and Michael Gallagher, Politics in The Republic of Ireland. (Routledge, 2018).

How effectively do informal coordination mechanisms complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination?

10
 9

Informal coordination mechanisms generally support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 8
 7
 6


In most cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
 2
 1

Informal coordination mechanisms tend to undermine rather than complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
Informal Coordination
8
All governments in Ireland between 1989 and 2016 have been coalition governments. The 2016 general election produced a Fine Gael-led minority government with nine independent deputies, a government which is dependent on the abstentionism of the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil, in votes relating to confidence and supply.

The impression conveyed by accounts of cabinet meetings is that the agenda is usually too heavy to allow long debates on fundamental issues, which tend to have been settled in various ways prior to the meeting. On the whole these informal coordination mechanisms appear to work effectively (see also Ministerial Bureaucracy on the importance on ministers’ special advisers).

During the 2011 to 2016 coalition government, the need for tight coordination was greater given that this government had to deal with the economic and financial crisis. An Economic Management Council (EMC) was introduced as a kind of “war cabinet.” It was composed of four key cabinet members: the taoiseach and tanaiste (the two party leaders) and the two key economic portfolios, the minister for finance and the minister for public expenditure (one from each party). The EMC also included these four ministers’ top officials and advisers, about 13 in total. The EMC was an inner cabinet that took key decisions – a level of formal tight coordination not previously seen in Ireland. Partly because the crisis had mainly passed, the EMC was discontinued after the 2016 election.

Citations:
The two most recent Annual Reports on the Programme for Government are available here:

http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Publications/Publications_2014/Programme_for_Government_Annual_Report_2014.pdf

http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Publications/Publications_2015/Programme_for_Government_Annual_Report_2015..pdf

How extensively and effectively are digital technologies used to support interministerial coordination (in policy development and monitoring)?

10
 9

The government uses digital technologies extensively and effectively to support interministerial coordination.
 8
 7
 6


The government uses digital technologies in most cases and somewhat effectively to support interministerial coordination.
 5
 4
 3


The government uses digital technologies to a lesser degree and with limited effects to support interministerial coordination.
 2
 1

The government makes no substantial use of digital technologies to support interministerial coordination.
Digitalization for Interministerial C.
7
The government uses digital technologies in most cases and this appears to provide effective interministerial coordination.

Evidence-based Instruments

#34

To what extent does the government assess the potential impacts of existing and prepared legal acts (regulatory impact assessments, RIA)?

10
 9

RIA are applied to all new regulations and to existing regulations which are characterized by complex impact paths. RIA methodology is guided by common minimum standards.
 8
 7
 6


RIA are applied systematically to most new regulations. RIA methodology is guided by common minimum standards.
 5
 4
 3


RIA are applied in some cases. There is no common RIA methodology guaranteeing common minimum standards.
 2
 1

RIA are not applied or do not exist.
RIA Application
4
The 2011 Programme for Government states: “We will require departments to carry out and publish Regulatory Impact Assessments [RIAs] before government decisions are taken.” In principle, RIAs are used by all government departments. In practice, the range of RIAs completed and published is narrow. The last published list of completed RIAs dates from 2009.

In response to parliamentary questions on the topic in July 2012, the prime minister responded: “My department will shortly be consulting departments generally about the question of publication of regulatory impact analyses carried out before government decisions are taken.” Despite the reiteration in the Annual Review of the Programme for Government of the requirement that all departments undertake RIAs for regulatory changes, there is little evidence that these are being undertaken and published.

The cancellation and repayment of water charges paid to Irish Water in 2017 constituted a major failure in the areas of regulatory impact assessment, policy coordination, and government communication with the public.

Citations:
The latest available government documentation relating to RIAs is
http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Publications/Publications_Archive/Publications_2011/Revised_RIA_Guidelines_June_2009.pdf
Parts of the Independent Assessment of ‘The options for water provision’ are available at
http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/Environment/Water/FileDownLoad,29194,en.pdf

Does the RIA process ensure participation, transparency and quality evaluation?

10
 9

RIA analyses consistently involve stakeholders by means of consultation or collaboration, results are transparently communicated to the public and assessments are effectively evaluated by an independent body on a regular basis.
 8
 7
 6


The RIA process displays deficiencies with regard to one of the three objectives.
 5
 4
 3


The RIA process displays deficiencies with regard to two of the three objectives.
 2
 1

RIA analyses do not exist or the RIA process fails to achieve any of the three objectives of process quality.
Quality of RIA Process
4
The accessibility and communication of the RIAs that have been performed are poor and independent quality evaluations are not conducted. RIAs have been required since 2005 for issues that involve changes to the regulatory framework.

The shortcomings and problems that have arisen with regard to the launch of Irish Water illustrate a failure to create transparency and enable participation in the assessment of at least this important project.

Does the government conduct effective sustainability checks within the framework of RIA?

10
 9

Sustainability checks are an integral part of every RIA; they draw on an exhaustive set of indicators (including social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainability) and track impacts from the short- to long-term.
 8
 7
 6


Sustainability checks lack one of the three criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Sustainability checks lack two of the three criteria.
 2
 1

Sustainability checks do not exist or lack all three criteria.
Sustainability Check
4
Some of the suggested sustainability checks are included in the RIA Guidelines published in 2009 (a 97-page document), but there is no explicit mention of “sustainability” in that document and it does not seem that such checks are integrated into the RIA process. There is explicit provision for the inclusion of poverty impact assessments.

To what extent do government ministries regularly evaluate the effectiveness and/or efficiency of public policies and use results of evaluations for the revision of existing policies or development of new policies?

10
 9

Ex post evaluations are carried out for all significant policies and are generally used for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
 8
 7
 6


Ex post evaluations are carried out for most significant policies and are used for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
 5
 4
 3


Ex post evaluations are rarely carried out for significant policies and are rarely used for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
 2
 1

Ex post evaluations are generally not carried out and do not play any relevant role for the revision of existing policies or the development of new policies.
Quality of Ex Post Evaluation
3
The extent of overspending in health care totaled more than €2 billion over the last four years according to the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council. Such budgetary over-runs suggests that there is little ex-post evaluation of policy in this significant budgetary area. Each year the government is presented with an over-run that is tacitly accepted and paid for out of buoyant tax revenues. However, if tax revenues fall, the ability of the government to fund such over-runs will create significant political tensions.

Societal Consultation

#20

Does the government consult with societal actors in a fair and pluralistic manner?

10
 9

The government always consults with societal actors in a fair and pluralistic manner.
 8
 7
 6


The government in most cases consults with societal actors in a fair and pluralistic manner.
 5
 4
 3


The government does consult with societal actors, but mostly in an unfair and clientelistic manner.
 2
 1

The government rarely consults with any societal actors.
Public Consultation
6
Three public-sector agreements on pay and working conditions were negotiated between 2010 and 2013. The cumulative effect of these measures has been significant changes in pay and working conditions in the public sector, and a marked increase in productivity. However, some trade unions, notably in the educational sector, have rejected these proposals and some significant problems remain unresolved.

During 2016, improved economic performance shifted the focus toward containing public expectations that tax and expenditure disciplines would be significantly relaxed. In 2016, these expectations led to a strike of Dublin’s public tramway system workers and a threatened strike by the police force, which resulted in overly generous settlements. As a result of these settlements, the government now faces the dilemma of trying to resist further demands for public-sector pay increases.

The government now consults with workers and employers in the private sector on pay policy to a much lesser extent than was the case before 2008. Wage settlements are largely reached through discussion and negotiation between the affected parties.

Citations:
The latest public-sector agreement is here:
http://www.per.gov.ie/haddington-road-agreement

Policy Communication

#10

To what extent does the government achieve coherent communication?

10
 9

Ministries are highly successful in aligning their communication with government strategy.
 8
 7
 6


Ministries most of the time are highly successful in aligning their communication with government strategy.
 5
 4
 3


Ministries occasionally issue public statements that contradict the public communication of other ministries or the government strategy.
 2
 1

Strategic communication planning does not exist; individual ministry statements regularly contradict each other. Messages are often not factually consistent with the government’s strategy.
Coherent Communication
7
Under the constitution, the government is required to act in a collective fashion and all ministers are collectively responsible for government decisions. This doctrine of collective cabinet responsibility is normally adhered to and creates a clear incentive to follow a closely coordinated communications strategy.

In some controversial policy areas, communication between ministries as well as between ministries and the government has lacked coherence. Statements regarding health care continue to lack clarity and consistency, with inadequate coordination between the ministry and the government about what is planned and feasible in this area.

The creation of Irish Water has been characterized by a serious lack of transparency and coherence. This problem persisted throughout 2016. The government’s attempt to remove Irish Water from the General Government sector and have it treated as a commercial state-owned body in the national income accounts was dismissed by a judgment from Eurostat in 2015: “Eurostat considers that Irish Water is a non-market entity controlled by government and should therefore be classified within the government sector.” In 2017, domestic water charges payable to Irish Water were abolished and money already paid to Irish Water was repaid.

Citations:
The complex details of the treatment of Irish Water in the national income accounts were discussed in an exchange of views between the Irish Central Statistics Office and Eurostat: see
http://www.cso.ie/en/surveysandmethodology/nationalaccounts/classificationdecisions/classificationofirishwater/

Implementation

#15

To what extent can the government achieve its own policy objectives?

10
 9

The government can largely implement its own policy objectives.
 8
 7
 6


The government is partly successful in implementing its policy objectives or can implement some of its policy objectives.
 5
 4
 3


The government partly fails to implement its objectives or fails to implement several policy objectives.
 2
 1

The government largely fails to implement its policy objectives.
Government Effectiveness
6
One notable and growing trend is the increased use of statutory instruments which clearly empower ministers. It is often the case that a general policy is decided in the Oireachtas, but that the legislative body then delegates the detail and implementation to a minister. This provides the minister with considerable power to shape public policy. The average annual number of statutory instruments in the 1960s was 284; this rose steadily to 445 a year in the 1990s. Between 2010 and 2017, the average annual number rose to 772. This trend plays some role in shifting some policymaking power from the legislature to the executive.

In May 2016, the incoming minority government agreed to suspend water charges and establish an expert commission on the issue. This resulted in the publication of the Report on the Funding of Domestic Public Water Services in Ireland in November 2016. The report’s two main recommendations were that there should be a constitutional provision for the public ownership of water utilities and that public water services should be funded through taxation. The report also recommended that excessive or wasteful use of water should be discouraged by charging for such use, consistent with the polluter pays principle.

Ireland’s aging water and sewage system infrastructure necessitates significant future capital expenditure which the electorate is still not prepared to face. While the abolition of domestic water charges reduced pressure on the government from angry members of the public, the government must find an estimated €13 billion for infrastructure improvements in the coming years.

Citations:
The 2015 Review of the Programme for Government is available here:
http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Publications/Publications_2015/Programme_for_Government_Annual_Report_2015.pdf

Michael Gallagher (2010), “The Oireachtas,’ chpt 7 of John Coakley and Michael Gallagher (eds), Politics in the Republic of Ireland. London: Routledge and PSAI Press.

Eoin O’Malley and Shane Martin (2018), ‘The Government and the Taoiseach,’ in John Coakley and Michael Gallagher (eds), Politics in the Republic of Ireland. 6th edition. London: Routledge and PSAI Press.

To what extent does the organization of government provide mechanisms to ensure that ministers implement the government’s program?

10
 9

The organization of government successfully provides strong mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 8
 7
 6


The organization of government provides some mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 5
 4
 3


The organization of government provides weak mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
 2
 1

The organization of government does not provide any mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
Ministerial Compliance
8
The current minority-led government represents a range of different agendas and priorities. The allocation of ministries between them has a significant influence on the overall coherence of government policy.

Individual ministries are to a significant degree independent fiefdoms that can be used by individual ministers to pursue their self-interest – including boosting their chances of reelection – rather than any comprehensive government objective. The system requires even senior ministers to spend considerable time and energy in local constituency work, because few are sufficiently distanced from the risk of losing their seat at the next election. One newspaper recently estimated (informally) that ministers spend only about 10% of their time on national issues.

The two ministries with overarching responsibility for coordinating this program are the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Finance.

Ministers are not involved in the appointment or promotion of civil servants; at the higher levels of the civil service, appointment is now in the hands of the independent Top Level Appointments Commission. However, a 2014 conflict over the roles of the minister for justice and the commissioner of the Garda Síochána (the police force) led to the resignation of both men, and eventually the departure of the secretary-general of the Department of Justice as well.

Ministers select their own advisers and consultants and these exercise considerable influence. For the most part, however, individual ministers do implement government policy. But over time there is a tendency for some to pursue increasingly idiosyncratic goals. The ultimate sanction can be exercised by the taoiseach, as occurred in the major cabinet reshuffle of July 2014, which was designed to increase the government’s cohesiveness.

How effectively does the government office/prime minister’s office monitor line ministry activities with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The GO / PMO effectively monitors the implementation activities of all line ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of most line ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of some line ministries.
 2
 1

The GO / PMO does not monitor the implementation activities of line ministries.
Monitoring Ministries
8
The annual budgetary process, and in particular the preparation of expenditure estimates, involves individual ministries submitting preliminary estimates to the Department of Finance. This is the opening of a battle for resources, as the department seeks to reconcile the sum of departmental claims with the total available for public spending. Whereas monitoring and oversight of most line ministry spending and policy implementation have been effective in recent years, the problem of large cost over-runs in the Ministry of Health and confusion about the medium-term strategy for public health are long-standing and unresolved issues.

Having corrected its excessive deficit in 2015 and 2016, Irish policymakers were constrained by the rules of the EU fiscal compact in framing their 2019 budget. This reduced flexibility at the national level with regard to tax cuts and expenditure increases. However, these constraints were somewhat offset by revenue buoyancy resulting from unexpectedly rapid economic growth.

How effectively do federal and subnational ministries monitor the activities of bureaucracies/executive agencies with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The ministries effectively monitor the implementation activities of all bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 8
 7
 6


The ministries monitor the implementation activities of most bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 5
 4
 3


The ministries monitor the implementation activities of some bureaucracies/executive agencies.
 2
 1

The ministries do not monitor the implementation activities of bureaucracies/executive agencies.
Monitoring Agencies|Bureaucracies
6
The number of government agencies has been steadily increasing. In 1950, there were around 130 agencies. By 2010, there were more than 350 agencies (see MacCarthaigh, 2012).
O’Malley and Martin (2018, 261) note that: “The Irish experience had been criticized even before the economic crisis by the OECD, which noted that ‘in Ireland, the objectives of agentification are unclear, mixed and not prioritized,’ resulting in sub-optimal governance structures” (OECD, 2008: 298).

The Health Services Executive (HSE) is the government agency responsible for providing public health care. It is the largest semi-autonomous bureaucracy in the country. It was formed by the amalgamation of local health boards 10 years ago; it remains difficult to identify the savings that were promised due to this rationalization. On the other hand, cost over-runs and low delivery standards have been a persistent feature of the agency. The history of HSE weighs heavily on public perceptions of the new Irish Water agency.

In other areas, the autonomy of executive agencies has yielded mixed results, and the monitoring of these agencies is not sufficiently close to ensure that government policy is being implemented efficiently.

The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (OCAG) is responsible for auditing and reporting on the accounts of all public bodies, ensuring that funds are applied for the purposes intended, and evaluating the effectiveness of operations. The OCAG does not regularly monitor all executive agencies. It seems to select those where it knows or suspects that problems have arisen. Its mission statement says it “selects issues for examination which are important in the context of the management of public funds.” Its reports contain details of overspending and inefficiencies, and make recommendations for improving financial administration within the public sector.

In summary, a system of monitoring executive agencies is in place, but recent high-profile cases show that it all too often discovers failings and shortcomings after they have occurred and has not been very effective in averting them.

Citations:
The latest (2013) OCAG reports on the accounts of the public services are available here:

http://www.audgen.gov.ie/viewdoc.asp?fn=/documents/annualreports/2013/Report/En/ReportIndex.htm
http://www.audgen.gov.ie/viewdoc.asp?fn=/documents/annualreports/2013/AppAcc/En/AppAccIndex_2013.htm

A list of special reports on value for money in the public sector is available here:

http://audgen.gov.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=-1&CatID=5&UserLang=EN&m=13

To what extent does the central government ensure that tasks delegated to subnational self-governments are adequately funded?

10
 9

The central government enables subnational self-governments to fulfill all their delegated tasks by funding these tasks sufficiently and/or by providing adequate revenue-raising powers.
 8
 7
 6


The central government enables subnational governments to fulfill most of their delegated tasks by funding these tasks sufficiently and/or by providing adequate revenue-raising powers.
 5
 4
 3


The central government sometimes and deliberately shifts unfunded mandates to subnational governments.
 2
 1

The central government often and deliberately shifts unfunded mandates to subnational self-governments.
Task Funding
6
One of the motivations for the creation of Irish Water in 2013 was to remove responsibility for the provision of water services from local governments, many of which had failed to provide a reliable supply of high-quality water to their populations and had seriously under-invested in water infrastructure over the years, perhaps largely due to inadequate funding from the central government. Due to strong populist reaction, the funding mechanism for Irish Water, namely the imposition of household water charges, was strongly resisted. As a result of this resistance, this funding mechanism was abolished and household water charges were repaid in 2017. The water initiative paralleled the 2005 decision to remove the provision of public-health services from regional health boards, centralizing this power instead in the Health Services Executive. As we have seen, this has not resulted in a smoothly functioning health care delivery system.

The functions and services that remain the responsibility of subnational units of government are largely funded by the central government rather than from local resources. In 2013, grants from the central government accounted for 43% of the current revenue and 90% of the capital revenue of subnational governmental units. Local taxes accounted for only 28% of their current receipts. While the introduction of the local property tax raised the proportion of funds coming from local sources, subnational units of government remain heavily dependent on the central government for resources. This dependence is proportionately greater in the case of smaller and poorer local units.

The receipts from the new local property tax (LPT) are to be distributed as follows: in 2015, 80% were to be retained locally to fund vital public services, while the remaining 20% were to be redistributed to provide top-up funding to certain local authorities that have lower property-tax bases due to variance in property values. The Local Property Tax Exchequer Receipts at the end of September 2017 amounted to €362 million.

Citations:
https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/information-about-revenue/statistics/local-property tax/index.aspx

To what extent does central government ensure that subnational self-governments may use their constitutional scope of discretion with regard to implementation?

10
 9

The central government enables subnational self-governments to make full use of their constitutional scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 8
 7
 6


Central government policies inadvertently limit the subnational self-governments’ scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 5
 4
 3


The central government formally respects the constitutional autonomy of subnational self-governments, but de facto narrows their scope of discretion with regard to implementation.
 2
 1

The central government deliberately precludes subnational self-governments from making use of their constitutionally provided implementation autonomy.
Constitutional Discretion
5
Ireland is a unitary state, without a significant degree of autonomous local or regional self-government. Article 28a of the constitution simply states: “The state recognizes the role of local government in providing a forum for the democratic representation of local communities, in exercising and performing at local level powers and functions conferred by law and in promoting by its initiatives the interests of such communities.”

In keeping with its weak constitutional foundation, the role of subnational government is viewed by the electorate as confined to a narrow range of functions. Most of the units of local government – the counties and county boroughs – are small, and many have weak economic bases.

The role of subnational units of government has been progressively reduced, most notably by the removal of their responsibility for the provision of health and water services (respectively in 2005 and 2014). However, the government decided that local authorities that stand to receive more income in 2015 from the LPT than they received from the Local Government Fund in 2014 will be entitled to use a certain portion of that additional funding for their own discretionary purposes as part of their normal budgetary process.

While the Local Government Reform Act 2014 introduced some important changes in the structure of local government (merging three pairs of city/county councils and replacing town councils with municipal districts), it did not radically alter the structure or functions of local government. The act also replaced the existing regional authorities with three new Regional Assemblies that are tasked with preparing Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies by 2016. Local Community Development Committees have also been established. It remains to be seen if these developments will significantly increase subnational implementation autonomy. John Coakley describes the 2014 act as “the ultimate stage in the centralization of the Irish local government system” (2018, p21).

Citations:
John Coakley (2018), ‘The foundations of statehood,’ in in John Coakley and Michael Gallagher (eds), Politics in the Republic of Ireland. 6th edition. London: Routledge and PSAI Press.

To what extent does central government ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services?

10
 9

Central government effectively ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
 8
 7
 6


Central government largely ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
 5
 4
 3


Central government ensures that subnational self-governments realize national minimum standards of public services.
 2
 1

Central government does not ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
National Standards
7
Most of the main public services (health, social welfare, education, public transport, building and maintaining the primary national road network, and, since 2014, the provision of water services) are provided by the central government or national public utility companies; there is little scope for subnational governments to influence standards.

The attainment of national (or, more usually now, EU) levels of public services is prescribed and monitored in other areas where local government plays a greater role, notably environmental services and standards.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plays a key role in enforcing standards across the country. The Office of Environmental Enforcement supervises the environmental protection activities of local authorities by auditing their performance, providing advice and guidance, and in some cases giving binding directions. It can assist the public in bringing prosecutions against local authorities found to be in breach of significant legislation. In other areas – the provision of social housing, maintenance of local roads and other such issues – the attainment of national standards is largely constrained by the resources made available by the central government. There is significant variation between local providers in these areas.

To what extent is government enforcing regulations in an effective and unbiased way, also against vested interests?

10
 9

Government agencies enforce regulations effectively and without bias.
 8
 7
 6


Government agencies, for the most part, enforce regulations effectively and without bias.
 5
 4
 3


Government agencies enforce regulations, but ineffectively and with bias.
 2
 1

Government agencies enforce regulations ineffectively, inconsistently and with bias.
Regulatory Enforcement
8
Government agencies do attempt to enforce regulations effectively and without bias. This was borne out recently by the fact that Denis Naughten, the minister of communications, was asked to resign in October 2018 for having met a stakeholder of a company that was bidding for the National Broadband Plan contract.

There has been a significant growth in political lobbying in Ireland. In general, lobbyists claim that they are simply providing advice about how the process works, but – given that many lobby firms hire ex-ministers, members of parliament and some journalists – transparency advocates believe it is important to have a statutory register of lobbying to guard against corruption. The Regulation of Lobbying Act was passed in 2015. The act provides for an extensive web-based register of lobbying. In its first year of operation 1,100 people registered and there were also almost 1,500 returns by lobbyists. The database is searchable and provides a lot of information on who the lobbyist was, whom they lobbied, what was the content of their lobbying and what the intended outcome of their lobbying was. “All this is radically new in the Irish context. The lobbying register clearly provides citizens with far more information on the lobbying process than ever before – an important step in the promotion of open and transparent policymaking” (Murphy 2018, 290).

An Office of Lobbying Regulation was also set up (within the Standards of Public Office Commission). Its job is to ensure that the Lobbying Act is enforced. It is independent of government, industry and the other sectional interests.

Citations:
Gary Murphy (2018) ‘The Policymaking Process,’ in John Coakley and Michael Gallagher (eds) Politics in the Republic of Ireland.

Adaptability

#5

To what extent does the government respond to international and supranational developments by adapting domestic government structures?

10
 9

The government has appropriately and effectively adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 8
 7
 6


In many cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 5
 4
 3


In some cases, the government has adapted domestic government structures to international and supranational developments.
 2
 1

The government has not adapted domestic government structures, no matter how beneficial adaptation might be.
Domestic Adaptability
9
The key influence in this area is Ireland’s membership in the European Union and, in the financial area, of the euro zone. Over the 46 years since Ireland became a member of the European Economic Community, the country has adapted institutions at all levels of government to allow effective functioning in Europe. Having successfully implemented the 2010 bailout agreement with the Troika, Ireland is now committed to adhering to the EU rules of economic governance contained in the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance and the fiscal procedures contained in the European Semester. The unexpectedly strong economic performance since 2013 has greatly facilitated compliance with these obligations.

Citations:
For a discussion of the framework of Ireland’s economic governance see
http://www.iiea.com/publications/reforming-european-economic-governance?gclid=CKCIzsatvcECFQRj2wodjz4A9w#sthash.lI8sWbHq.dpufin return for

To what extent is the government able to collaborate effectively with international efforts to foster global public goods?

10
 9

The government can take a leading role in shaping and implementing collective efforts to provide global public goods. It is able to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress.
 8
 7
 6


The government is largely able to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. Existing processes enabling the government to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress are, for the most part, effective.
 5
 4
 3


The government is partially able to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. Processes designed to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress show deficiencies.
 2
 1

The government does not have sufficient institutional capacities to shape and implement collective efforts to provide global public goods. It does not have effective processes to ensure coherence in national policies affecting progress.
International Coordination
7
The country contributes to international efforts to foster the provision of global public goods primarily through its active participation in European policymaking institutions. Irish government structures have been progressively altered to support this capacity.

Ireland has continued to maintain a relatively high level of overseas development assistance since the onset of the economic crisis. It also continues to play an active part in the development of the European response to climate change. The Irish and Kenyan ambassadors co-facilitated the final intergovernmental negotiations that led to the adoption of the UN’s Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) in 2015.

Citations:
For an account of Ireland’s role in negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals see
https://www.irishaid.ie/what-we-do/post-2015-negotiations/ireland’s-special-role/

Organizational Reform

#9

To what extent do actors within the government monitor whether institutional arrangements of governing are appropriate?

10
 9

The institutional arrangements of governing are monitored regularly and effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The institutional arrangements of governing are monitored regularly.
 5
 4
 3


The institutional arrangements of governing are selectively and sporadically monitored.
 2
 1

There is no monitoring.
Self-monitoring
7
The present government has a mandate for institutional reform and has made some progress in implementing its program in this area as set out in its four Annual Reviews of the Programme for Government. Specific examples have been discussed in relation to other SGI criteria.

To what extent does the government improve its strategic capacity by changing the institutional arrangements of governing?

10
 9

The government improves its strategic capacity considerably by changing its institutional arrangements.
 8
 7
 6


The government improves its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
 5
 4
 3


The government does not improve its strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
 2
 1

The government loses strategic capacity by changing its institutional arrangements.
Institutional Reform
7
Radical change was called for in the wake of the dramatic policy and governance failures that contributed to the severity of the crisis. However, the specific reforms implemented have been relatively limited and some of the initial momentum has been lost as the government enters its final year and a general election looms. Nonetheless, improvements in strategic capacity introduced during the period of the Troika agreement have been retained.

Institutional arrangements for supervising and regulating the financial-services sector have been overhauled to address shortcomings that contributed to the crisis. The Department of Finance has been restructured and strengthened, a Fiscal Advisory Council established, and a parliamentary inquiry into the banking crisis completed its public hearings.

During this Dáil, members of the Dáil Éireann elected the Ceann Comhairle (Speaker of the House) directly by secret ballot for the first time. All parliamentary committees have been established and committee chairs appointed using the D’Hondt system. Under the new system, 13 of the 19 core committees are chaired by opposition members.
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