Many of the problems facing the country today come from the fact the the Dail has been remiss in its duty as a check on the government. There’s a simple reason for this: Most ambitious TDs see the Dail merely as an electoral college for the cabinet. There’s no room, as there is in the US Congress, for example, to be a useful and sucessful legislator, and that, coupled with the fact that most TDs are elected as local fixers rather than legislators makes the Dail an ineffective institution.
Barring TDs (and senators) from being ministers would have many benefits, and few drawbacks. The truth is, we cannot claim that we have the most talented people in the country in the Cabinet. As for the very talented TDs, they can be appointed ministers, they’ll just have to resign their seats. Someone in Fianna Fail said to me that they wouldn’t do that, because they want the safety net of a Dail seat. A safety net? If 400,000 people don’t have the safety net of a spare job “just in case”, then neither should their representatives. TDs who don’t want to resign their seats probably shouldn’t be ministers anyway, and no, we won’t have a mini general election, we’ll do what they do in France and what we do here in the European Elections: We’ll elect substitutes on the same day as the general election. And we’ll have no problem filling 15 cabinet jobs at €150k a piece, either. With good people who actually know something about their briefs.
” But is it democratic?” the cry goes out. Is it democratic now? If the people of Leitrim elect someone who ends up as minister in charge of transport, how are they answerable to the people who use Dublin Bus? They don’t elect him. The fact is, his democratic mandate actually comes from the fact that a majority of the Dail elected a Taoiseach who appointed him a minister. Which then begs a bigger question: Who elected Brendan Drumm, a man who controls a bigger budget than most cabinet ministers? Or who is he answerable to? If he was appointed Minister of Health he would have to answer directly to the Dail. In fact, the Dail could sack him, if they wished, again something they can’t do today. Would that be more or less democratic than today? What about the Taoiseach? What about him? Yes, he would resign his seat too, and parties could pay their leaders a salary if they weren’t TDs (don’t some already?) because the key is that it is the Dail, acting in concert, where democracy lies, not in Offaly because they were lucky to elect a fella who became Taoiseach. It’s time to point out to voters that for every constituency that is lucky enough to get a cabinet minister (and the perceived benefits of) there are two that don’t, and are therefore discriminated against. But then, maybe the problem is exactly that: Is there anything that fuels that satisfying Irish sense of grievence (which deep down we love to wallow in) than the idea that someone else is doing you down?