For most of my teens and early twenties I desperately wanted to be a TD. I worked in the party, got elected to positions, and eventually got selected as a candidate for the local elections, which I crashed spectacularly out of. When I was running, I remember thinking how disappointed I’d be if I lost, that I’d be a failure, and that my plans to enter the Dail would be catastrophically disrupted.
Yet, here was the funny thing: When I lost, it didn’t bother me, because although it had taken me years to get the nomination, I had raised enough doubts in my head about whether I really wanted to be involved in politics (as a candidate) at all. I was not convinced anymore.
Since the day of the general election count, I’ve been speaking to a lot of political people who didn’t run, but on watching the count and the first day of the new Dail have begun to regret it. They watched people who were “behind” them in the party structure now getting elected as TDs and have been thinking “I could have done that”.
I had those feelings myself, although I’m not convinced that I could have done it. Getting elected is really hard work physically. But it also needs you to be able to seal a part of your brain where you listen to people at doors say absolute nonsense, and if not agree with them, then leave them with the impression that you do. I couldn’t do that, the same way I could not do the “Yes, we need cutbacks, but not for this school” thing.
By the way, it’s not an aversion to constituency work. Whereas it is a pain in the arse, and a lot of it is doing things for people that they could do themselves, I can see how a TD, with the time and resources to actually do constituency work (And not have mad ones ringing you in work, in your real job, to complain that she does not like the way the neighbours keep their garden) can get some satisfaction out of it.
But do I miss listening to people whinging to me on a doorstep on a wet Tuesday night, having already spent eight hours in work, about why other taxpayers should give them money? No, not really.
By the way, heard a great story at the weekend about people ringing the office of a defeated Fianna Fail TD, irate at the fact that he will no longer be doing constituency work now that he has retired from politics!