Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

The truth about TDs.

Posted by Jason O on Mar 12, 2010 in Irish Politics |

Michael Ring TD: A good local GP. But the country needs surgeons.

Michael Ring TD: A good local GP. But the country needs surgeons.

There’s been a lot of debate in recent months about TDs and how we elect them, and what they actually do all day. As part of that, a division has emerged about what people (you know, the voters) actually expect of our TDs. The reality is a bit messy, in that (in my opinion anyway) I suspect that most Irish voters vote primarily for a local grafter, and get what they expect.  There’s a good argument, by the way, that this is a model example of democracy, in that the people are in touch with their elected representatives, who in turn interact with the state on their behalf. This is all good stuff, and I have no doubt that the likes of Michael Ring have helped a lot of constituents. All well and good.

The problem is that TDs are like GPs, prescribing painkillers and creams to deal with the symptoms of an illness, but they’re not the surgeons who go in and remove the tumour. Michael Ring may rather that the money spent on tribunals be spent on health services in Mayo, but he will never be the man who will draft the bill that will reform the Oireachtas to make sure we never need tribunals again.  

But here’s the issue for me: I want to vote for TDs who are elected on policy platforms that they actually care about. Is there anyone who really believes that Michael Ring spends hours scrutinising the draft FG manifesto, making suggestions and debating the direction of FG? I doubt he does, because it will not win him a single vote. But there is a minority of voters who are being disenfranchised because we can’t vote for the policy based TDs because of our geographical constituencies. I like Noel Dempsey. I like Ruairi Quinn, because both have shown a seriousness about policy, yet I can’t vote for them.

Let’s keep our local constituencies. People want a local representative. But let’s also have a National constituency, of 30-40 TDs elected from an open list.

At least we might then elect a few surgeons. 


James Lawless
Mar 15, 2010 at 3:09 pm

True to an extent. The people get what they want and what they vote for at the polling booths. What is it that comes on the doors ; potholes or policy? How many ambitious young turks have gone out into the melee with a headful of policy and returned home beat down by constituency queries. The beating down of art and great art beaten down. The clever man who cries the catch cries of the clown.

Jason O
Mar 15, 2010 at 5:10 pm

I suspect that a majority of voters are just interested in local issues. But that still leaves a substantial minority (30%? 40%?) who are interested in policies. Why can’t we have our own TDs? We pay the same taxes.

James Lawless
Mar 16, 2010 at 10:51 am

Of course you can have them. But you have to vote for them. In most constituencies you will have a combination of policy orientated politicians and constituency orientated ones. Often one of each from the same party. It caters for both bases that way.



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