Dáil ‘doomed’ unless it gets shake-up, Dempsey

WELL-PAID TDs can easily evade work under the present Dáil set-up while the Government is never held to account, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey last night warned as he urged reform.

The Cabinet member said the current system was open to abuses and doomed unless it underwent a radical shake-up.

Mr Dempsey told the MacGill political summer school that TDs faced a fierce battle to get elected, but once they were in the Dáil they did not have to do anything if they did not want to.

“Once elected you get well paid to do that job and the best part of all for those who are elected is that you don’t have to do it... if you’re a Minister you certainly have to do it, but even ministers can escape it as well.

“Governments are not held to account; they cannot be held to account. A Government can get whatever it wants through the House at any stage,” Mr Dempsey said as he called for electoral reform, more resources for TDs and an end to “localism”.

Fine Gael environment spokesperson Phil Hogan said his party would oppose a ban on corporate political donations, as called for by the Greens and former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, who said such connections caused a biased culture of dependency. Mr Hogan said only Fine Gael offered radical political reform, such as abolishing the Seanad, and Ireland needed to modernise the way it did constitutional and economic business in the future.

Foreign Minister Micheál Martin used his address to the summer school to attack Labour, accusing it of arrogantly taking the voters for granted while it took no tough policy positions.

The Government’s management of the economy over the past decade, and especially its response to the slump, came in for criticism from speakers.

Friends First chief economist Jim Power accused the Finance Department of trying to get his employers to sack him 18 months ago because he had voiced concerns over the way the crisis was being handled by the Government.

ESRI economist John Fitzgerald said that taxing children's allowance could be a way of boosting the payment for the less well-off, claiming pensioners were the group that had done best out of the economic downturn.

Mr Dempsey said that the elderly had been protected by the Government but would not be drawn on pre-Budget speculation that pensions may be targeted for cuts.

Speaking on The Republic I Want to See forum of the summer school, Father Peter McVerry SJ said political reform was needed if economic reform was to lead Ireland out of the slump.


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