For the past two weeks The Irish Times has been running a series covering the new Dail constituencies. It’s informative but depressing stuff, because in its accuracy it confirms everything that is wrong with Irish politics. The series highlights the fact that the vast majority of Dail constituencies are elected not on the basis of a debate as to how we will run our society, but a battle of parishes. In short, it’s not as much an election as a Viking raid, where a parish sends forth its most suitable candidate with a clear message: go to another parish and steal whatever you can from those f**kers and bring it back to us. We basically don’t give a toss what happens elsewhere in the country as long as we get our school or hospital.
And yet, here’s the thing: it’s a lousy system. Is there a single constituency where the sitting deputies will say, after 90 years, that their constituency has gotten its fair share? No. Every county in the country whines that it has been cheated out of its entitlement by politicians from more wily constituencies.
There is an interesting alternative. I don’t know the name of the chap who devised this system, although I understand he’s a physicist from Tipperary. He proposes we have twelve ten or twelve seat constituencies, elected by STV, with each constituency allocated to a month. Each voter is assigned to the month they were born, and vote that way rather than geographically.
Now, before you start rolling your eyes, just think about the concept for a moment. Suddenly, every TD has constituents in every parish in the country. Suddenly TDs can’t favour one school over another or one hospital over another. Now they have to care about national policy and setting common national standards that work because they all represent the whole country for real. And it doesn’t mean that TDs can’t help individual voters either. Do you really think Michael Lowry or Michael Healy-Rae won’t help a constituent in Dublin or Donegal if they are in the right birth constituency?
It’s a radical idea, but a fascinating one, and one that I would love to see the Constitutional Convention look at.
By the way, if anyone knows the name of the guy who came up with it, let me know so I can credit him.