Oireachtas attendance penalties - Why not cut absentees’ pay?

Oireachtas attendance penalties - Why not cut absentees’ pay?

Political disengagement is one of the real challenges of our age.

Disinterest, inattention, and what seems a growing weariness with the proposal that politics can be an agent for positive change all come together for too many people, allowing less than admirable forces to advance.

It is hard to imagine that Donald Trump would have succeeded in the US had the Democrats been awake; it is difficult to think we would have had to consider a hard Brexit had David Cameron’s judgement not been compromised by hubris.

It may seem a stretch to link those events with the news that eight Oireachtas members were not paid a full allowance last year, because they had a poor attendance record.

On the face of it, this seems a minor detail, but maybe it’s more.

In the real world, people who don’t turn up to work lose pay and, if they are serial offenders, they usually lose their jobs.

Why should parliamentarians be treated differently?

There seems no rational reason, especially as the Oireachtas sittings are so limited, leaving plenty of time for constituency work. The summer break begins this Thursday and Oireachtas debate will not resume until October.

A representative may have a good reason for their absence — even if that absence undermines the credibility of our political system and the integrity of our parliament.

It is also hard not to feel a tad betrayed by those who ask for a vote, but are less than committed to exercising the responsibility that confers.

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