Posted by Jason O on Apr 27, 2011 in Irish Politics
So, there you are. A concerned citizen, who wants to play a part in the better governing of her country. So you run for the county council, and get in, and discover what, exactly? That aside from a bit of tinkering at the budget and the county development plan, there is little of substance you can actually do. The real power is with the county manager, although you can “call” for stuff. Lucky you.
You then get elected to a Regional Authority. A what? One of Ireland’s eight regional authorities! What do you mean you have never heard of them? They’re very important. For example, they….do that thing with the stuff. You even get elected Chairperson of the Authority, following in the footsteps of such memorable Regional Authority Chairpeople as, you know, that guy with the head? But still, you find that’s not enough.
So you get onto one of Ireland’s two Regional Assemblies, where you get to fill out expense forms, and deny that the whole thing is a bit of a con to fool them fellas in Brussels that we’re actually a proper country with local government and the like.
But you want to do more, and so you run for Seanad Eireann. And guess what? Your fellow councillors elect you. And so in the Seanad you discover that you have the power to, well, wave at government bills as they pass you. But you can also “call” for stuff.
No, you decide, the real power is in the Dail. So you set your hat at that, and sure enough, the people of your area put you over the quota and into Dail Eireann. You’ve arrived. Well, as a backbencher, you can, eh, wave at government bills as they pass you and “Call” for stuff.
Then they decide to make you a minister of state. Finally. Finally! Power! Now you can use your powers as a minister to initiate….eh….what, the cabinet has all the power? Hardly any junior ministers actually do anything?
Finally, you reach the cabinet. Now, you have power. But here’s the thing: Of the 1627 councillors, 60 senators and 166 TDs, 15 cabinet ministers have the vast, vast majority of the power. Or 0.8%.
Which makes the other 99.2% a pretty poor use of time, surely?