This post is a guest blog, copied with thanks from our friends at Make Votes Matter, the UK citizens campaign for proportional representation! We have edited it slightly for a Canadian audience.
Ireland and PR: 5 things to know
Ireland has used Proportional Representation (PR) for generations. Five things to know:
1. Ireland has used PR for over a century
Ireland has used PR for over 100 years – and it works.
All major political parties campaign in every corner of the country, because every riding matters and every vote counts.
Contrast this with our Parliament. If you live in a safe seat, most parties will write you off as less important than a voter who lives in a more valuable postcode. That’s unequal and unfair! It’s time for every voter to be treated equally in Great Britain and Canada, too.
2. PR is written into the Good Friday Agreement
PR is written into the 1998 peace agreement. The Agreement says that the Northern Ireland Assembly “will be elected by PR (STV)” (proportional ranked choice voting).
The British and Irish governments knew that for politics to succeed, it must represent everybody. First Past the Post is not up to the job.
In Northern Ireland today, Westminster elections are the only elections still held under a divisive and unrepresentative First Past the Post system.
3. Ireland has a 3-party cooperative government
One hundred years of rivalry between Ireland’s two main parties — age-old enemies Fine Gael and Fianna Fail — ended with an historic grand coalition agreement in 2020, which also includes the Green Party.
It is cooperation on an unprecedented scale in Ireland, even with the country’s long history of cooperative governments thanks to proportional representation.
The three parties agreed to a plan -“Programme for Government – Our Shared Future.”
- It’s a five-year plan – reflecting the commitment of three parties to a stable, collaborative and productive government
- The leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will take turns being Taoiseach (equivalent to Prime Minister). The transition half way through did indeed take place on December 17, 2022
- All three parties have Ministers – 9 each for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and 6 for the Greens
- Priorities include a job stimulus program, a commitment to reducing carbon emissions by 7% a year (a condition of the Greens joining the coalition), expanding affordable housing, expanding community-based health care, and measuring success by a well-being indicator (rather than simply by GDP), similar to New Zealand.
4. Every Taoiseach in Ireland has come from a centrist or centre-right party
The head of Government in the Republic of Ireland has always come from the centre or centre-right.
PR isn’t about locking anyone out of power, it’s about fairly representing the people.
PR has no bias, to the left or the right. It simply represents the voters, whatever they choose.
If there is a conservative majority in the country, PR will deliver a conservative majority in parliament.
If there is a progressive majority in the country, PR will deliver a progressive majority in parliament.
With PR you get what you vote for. It’s as simple as that.
5. Ireland is a pioneer in citizens’ assemblies
If you’ve heard about citizens’ assemblies, chances are you’ve heard of Ireland!
A citizens’ assembly is a citizen-led, deliberative process, composed of ordinary people and selected like a jury. Fair Vote Canada is campaigning for a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform.
Ireland has held several citizens’ assemblies on a range of topics over the past several years, including to find a shared way forward on controversial social issues.
There’s no reason why the Canada and the UK couldn’t hold a citizens’ assembly to reconsider our broken voting system.
PR is tried and tested in scores of countries all over Europe and the world. 80% of OECD countries use PR.
It’s time for Canada and the UK to join them!
Once you have some democratic reforms, it makes it easier to win others.
That’s why it’s so important to start with PR. Once you win that, the future of our democracy is in the hands of the people.