Ireland and UK Governments
When there is a balance of power between the central and local government matters a lot because it helps in improving the lives of the local community. This is important since those in respective governments would be held accountable for the delivery of development projects. Members of the public must also understand pretty allocation. This will also have a great effect on the political participation of local and national parties, hence flourishing grass root participation.
‘The blend of Irish nationalism with the cultural content of Roman Catholicism would also be important, although in Ireland’s case this ethnic nationalism did not ultimately undermine democratic processes’ (Queen 2011). Ireland being a parliamentary democracy, the citizens are governed by laws that are based on Common Law as well as legislation, enacted by the Irish Parliament also known as the Oireachtas, under the Constitution. The United Kingdom on the other hand has the most centralized governments in the developed world (Lockwood 2013). For this reason, the local government does not have enough power to regulate matters regarding tax. Additionally, their choices are limited since there are controlled mandates pertaining expenditure. The impact of the situation in Northern Ireland played out in a contradictory way in the Republic of Ireland (Queen 2011).
This research seeks to compare both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, which have much more centralized political systems and how the political systems have centralized their governmental systems. Finally, some of the advantages and disadvantages of centralization, if any, will be highlighted and to a conclusion of whether centralization can enhance the goal of democracy. Overall, major differences and similarities between the two systems will be stated; whether one model offers substantial advantages over the other, or if they do share weaknesses.
Key Words: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); Local Council; Central Government.
The United Kingdom
The emergence of United Kingdom’s Common Law saw the development of the political system. The common laws were based on the local customs and precedent rather than formal legal codes. A great example is during the reign of Henry VIII when a major dispute erupted involving the British monarch and the Vatican. Henry used the parliament to effectively remove England from the Catholic Church that failed to grant him a divorce, to Protestant church that would later be controlled by the English State. This weakened the religious institution in the UK, as the churches had less independence compared to churches in other European countries. During this time the UK had a more constrained monarchy, though it was among the first nations that developed democratic control. The crowning of James I in 1603 and subsequently his son Charles I in 1625, saw the beginning of the English Civil War, as Charles resisted the parliament’s influence to limit his powers, while Charles flaunted his royal power (O’Neil, Patrick, Karl, and Donald 36). This forced the parliament to restore the monarchy in 1960. However, it did not take long before the parliament institutionalized its political supremacy in the bill of rights, making it a turning point after the creation of the constitutional monarchy. These events clearly show how the UK parliament weakened the power of the monarchs to its favor, given that the parliament represented the interests of the elite, where the only people who could vote were the wealthy.
In the eighteenth century, the UK’s political system took yet another unprecedented turn where more political parties started rising, with the Conservatives who showed their support to the monarch and the Liberals who opposed the monarch’s policies being the two largest cliques.
The United Kingdom’s political regime is based on the majority; the majority in the parliament have unchecked power, and can enact policies with minimal checks from other government organizations (O’Neil, Patrick, Karl, and Donald 39). When compared to other countries, the UK’s sub-national governments do not have control over the diversity of major taxes. A good example is the US where individual US states have the capability to set income as well as sales taxes, whereas the counties have the authority to determine sales taxes. However, with the implementation of the Localism Act of 2011, councils can easily offer ‘cuts’ in the business rate, though such ‘cuts’ need funding from other local sources.
The development of classical liberalism as well as the limited government’s influence on individuals has influenced the British political values. Scholars believe that British’s political culture is practical and liberal for opposing viewpoints, hence creating a high level of consensus in the political system. United Kingdom’s constitution is considered to be unusual since it consists of various acts of parliament, including judicial, customs as well as traditions. This caught the attention of the human rights advocates who have tirelessly advocated for written constitutional protection of basic human rights, even after UK became a member of the European Union in 1973. Twenty five years later, the European Convention on Human Rights was incorporated into law by the UK government. However, any changes to the constitution can be implemented easily without interference, creating independence and authority that has enabled UK to be politically stable (O’Neil, Patrick, Karl, and Donald 45).
Ireland on the other is a parliamentary democracy, where the citizens are governed by laws that are based on Common Law as well as legislation enacted by the Irish Parliament, also known as the Oireachtas, under the Constitution (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 2008). The type of government to be formed is set out by the Constitution of Ireland, defining the powers as well as functions of the President. These powers and functions are also stretched out to both Houses of the parliament (Oireachtas) as well as the Government (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 2008). However, the president is elected by direct vote, making him the Head of State. The constitution also defines the structures of the Courts and the powers they should have, as well as outline the basic rights of citizens.
The House of Representatives and the Senate are the two Houses of Parliament in the Government of Ireland, and its members are elected on a comparative representation system. Though the Seanad Éireann (Senate) may perhaps instigate or amend legislation with an exception of the Finance Bills, the Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives) has the overall power to reject the amended of proposed legislation (Queen 2011). The Local Government on the other hand is undergoing some reform, with the aim of reducing the figure of local authorities. Not only does the Local Government receive some financial support from the Central Government, it supports its development projects such as education, health, housing and building, just to mention a few, with revenue from local sources.
In the 1950s, Ireland’s government would pursue conservative policies stemming up from the dominance of small farmers and the influence of the Roman Catholic hierarchy (Queen 2011). Irish politics would be affected later by the events in Northern Ireland, since it was perceived to be a case of majority rule with weak minority rights and the government and economic institutions directly and indirectly discriminated against Catholics (Queen 2011).
Compared to the Centralized Governments, Decentralized Governments tend to make better decisions. This creates stability where individuals as well as groups have the mandate to innovate and create lasting progress. Given that the ordinary people are prone to suffer from the complexity of governments, they value the political stability.
Local Governments like the one in Ireland have limitations given that they rely heavily on funding from the Central Government. This is a situation that creates incentives for parliamentarians, who tend to lobby the Central Government for resources. Both Ireland and the United Kingdom have centralized governments, whose local governments are relatively weak, and with MPs taking on high constituency workloads.
Another problem of a centralized government is that there are weaknesses amounting from unequal representation as well as inconsistency in the structures at the local government. However, the local government has limitations on the devolved power or functions, given that their role revolves around economic and community development.
In most civilizations, the powers and responsibilities of the local government are directed to the central government, down to the central government as well as to other local bodies. Since the local government does not have a unique local role to play due to centralization, the local communities have been affected by far-reaching negative consequences. In recent times, successive governments have challenged themselves to shift power as well as decision-making from the central authorities towards local authorities. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the government to take into account the expectations of both public and media, especially when it comes to issues of public policy, fairness and service regulation.
O’Neil, Patrick H, Karl J. Fields, and Donald Share. Cases in Comparative Politics. , 2015. Print.
Queen, John. The Government and Politics of the Republic of Ireland. 2011. 14-20.