The Economic Management Council, a group comprised of Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore, Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin has been preparing most of the upcoming budget - to the exclusion of all other ministers in Cabinet.
In today's Independent we learn that Joan the Moan isn't happy about this - no doubt because cuts to SW rates (JSB) are reportedly on the table and, rightly, as the Minister for Social Protection, Joan (or any other minister), should be at all of the discussions relating to her (or their) department.
The EMC, also attended by five senior civil servants and two advisers, meets once a week to co-ordinate economic policy and implementation of the EU-IMF bailout programme but, according to both the Independent (here) and the Irish Times, some ministers have previously expressed reservations about its arrangement and claim that the body erodes traditional Cabinet powers. This revelation forced Micheal Noonan to defend the council back in August; which you can read in full here...Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has expressed concerns about the details of the Budget needing to be fully discussed by the entire Cabinet.
A four-man, mini-Cabinet had been handling the bulk of the preparations on the Budget so far – and the full Cabinet will only get to discuss the Budget properly for the first time tomorrow.
An internet search of the EMC returns various articles and Dáil references to the body wherein one can see the extent of the council's reach but is it democratic to exclude other elected cabinet ministers from important economic, social and legislative discussion and decisions? Is it even constitutional? Article 28.4.2 reads;it’s a very influential committee [...] it deals with the economic and financial issues and that’s its remit and it doesn’t interfere with the business of other Ministers”
Mr Noonan said that as the council was setting down expenditure parameters for all Government departments, it obviously constrained actions of other departments.
"in terms of decision making, I find the economic management council very effective"
So, what say you? Is Ireland's parliamentary democracy destined to a future wherein we have a 'higher' Government within and seemingly outside of actual Government? Has power become too concentrated around these Four Men and, if not, what does that mean for collective authority and responsibility of the whole government - as per the Constitution?The Government shall meet and act as a collective authority, and shall be collectively responsible for the Departments of State administered by the members of the Government.
Is this democracy?
Some other links you may find useful...
Why is inner cabinet cabal calling the shots?
New economic apartheid holds power
Government beefs up economic policy committee