An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The self-destructive government TD.

Twelve months in, she has that glassy look in her eye when talking to supporters. They remember her on the doorsteps, full of passion and integrity. She was THEIR woman, who was going to go to Dail Eireann and shake up the place and not put up with all that nonsense that went before. Now, as she brings them into the Dail bar, she can barely look them in the eye.

The saddest thing is that she hasn’t cheated them. When she now votes for cuts and against things she campaigned for in the constituency, she’s mortified. She knows she’s letting them down, and they know she knows too. They can see how tired she looks, the bags under her eyes, the fact that when someone walks up to her in the constituency and berates her, an almost daily event, she just stands there and takes it like a scolded dog, ashamed.

Occasionally, she’ll mumble something about “the whip” but her cheeks redden when she throws that old chestnut out. The whip isn’t legal, just a self imposed restraint that TDs cling to, and she doesn’t believe it anyway. She can vote for or against anything she wants, and nobody can stop her, and it’s that which she remembers as she drifts off to sleep and recalls first thing when she awakens. There is no whip. There’s only her.  

In the back of her head a tiny voice asks “why are you doing this?” She was never on the radical wing of the party, just a pragmatic problem-solver, and so the idea of rebelling goes completely against her nature. But the little voice tells her to look at the polls and recognise that she and dozens of other silent obedient backbenchers are slowly marching towards a humiliating ejection at the next election, and for what? So that the old men in the party get to be ministers and save their seats and get pensions? Whilst she gets humiliated at the count and gets talked about for years later by her friends and neighbours as “Wasn’t she a TD once? Yeah, but she wasn’t very good. Went up to Dublin and we never heard from her again.” She is actually willing to trade her dignity for the careers of her party betters, which is a certain form of selfless nobility, in a way.   

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