Cabinets in Western Europe by Jean Blondel, Ferdinand Müller-Rommel

By Jean Blondel, Ferdinand Müller-Rommel

A presentation of the constitution and workings of the nationwide cupboards in Western ecu nations this present day, in accordance with a typical framework which allows the reader to check their origins, constitution, composition and actions. Emphasis is put on the management and at the personality of coalitions.

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The party at large has virtually no role in cabinet composition and decision-making. Similarly, the parliamentary party -like the Dail itself - has little more than a ceremonial role. Tight discipline ensures that deputies support their party; governments, once elected, can largely ignore their backben- 42 Ireland chers; electoral circumstances reinforce the limited role of the Dail deputy (Farrell, 1985). However, ministers and governments that do not devote time, energy and trouble to regular contacts and consultation with back bench party colleagues can run into trouble with their proposals.

Outside interests also impinge upon the work of the cabinet, but usually in an indirect manner and through the agency of civil servants in the ministries. When it comes to the formation of policy proposals it is they who liaise with the representatives of interest groups, some of whom are involved on a formalised basis as members of advisory bodies attached to the various departments (Marsh, 1983). However, some interest groups may liaise directly with the minister, and this tends to occur when there is a close connection between the minister's party and a particular set of interest groups, as is the case within the Labour Party and some trade unions.

Its main provisions have been sketched out above. Perhaps the most important aspect of the change from the Irish Free State Constitution has arisen from the rigidity of Bunreacht na hEireann, the timidity and indifference of legislators on constitutional changes and the increased exercise of judicial review, particularly since the 1960s (Kelly, 1984; Doolan, 1984). It is these constitutional constraints, rather than the theory of parliamentary answerability or practice of opposition politics, which have curtailed any unbridled exercise of executive power Size and membership of cabinet For twenty years after the foundation of the Irish Free State the cabinet was usually limited to ten members.

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