Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

Would term limits help?

Posted by Jason O on Jul 10, 2010 in Irish Politics

In other countries new situations bring change. In the US, Barack Obama was elected. In the UK, a coalition is in power. In Ireland…sigh. Here we have an bitterly unpopular government, yet the lead opposition party still fails to raise any excitement. Why is that?

There are a wide range of factors why, but one key issue I feel is the fact that politics in Ireland has become primarily, for many, a way of having a career and paying the mortgage. As a result, we have a large number of our politicians who are just there, taking up mass but actually doing little with the job other than what is needed to get reelected. They’re involved in “politics” but not that interested in politics. Imagine you applied that practice to, say, football, where someone was very good at getting on the national side, but not much good at,  or even interested that much in, actual football? 

In fairness to them, it’s as much the voters fault for electing them on that basis, but that does not mean we should not change it. Why should someone be a TD, for example, for longer than, say, three terms? Is our system really being served well by people who are becoming a permanent political class? 

The negative side is what, that we lose “experienced” people like Enda? The argument that someone should “wait their turn” to become a minister is a false construct, put up by primarily by timeservers. Term limits would churn up the system, and get the clock ticking as far as getting things done in politics counts. What’s wrong with limiting a Taoiseach to two five year terms? Show me a Taoiseach who was doing great work after 10 years anyway? Dev was useless after 1937 (we’re very sorry to hear that Herr Hitler is feeling poorly. I’ll bet even the German ambassador’s jaw clunked on the table when he heard that one) and Bertie’s third term is something we’d all like to forget about.

Lemass did 7 years and we’re still talking about him. Noel Browne was minister for 3 years. What’s the difference? Both men went into politics to actually do stuff, as opposed to be there. We really need to have a nice sit down and a think about this.    

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