Newly-elected coalition TDs yesterday told the MacGill summer school of the frustration faced by politicians.
One independent TD also claimed attempts to reform the Dáil were “superficial” and amounted to nothing but “box ticking” by the coalition parties.
Labour TD Aodhan O’Riordain said the vast bulk of legislation reflected those passing it and that the Dáil was 87% male, overwhelmingly white, middle class, Catholic, heterosexual, able-bodied and from the settled community.
The Dublin North Central TD claimed it suited some “politicians to have long housing lists” in their constituencies, adding: “…because their clinics are full, and they get the allure of having the inside track on housing allocation. Where would the local representative be without the proverbial pothole to fill in?”
The TD questioned the whip system and said it was the reason people did not join parties as they thought “individuality would be lost”.
Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy, after describing a tale of a backbencher’s day, detailed the frustration new deputies faced.
The Dublin South East TD said it was a “mistake” to promise new Dáil reforms on the promise of abolishing the Seanad. New politicians were going to get “frustrated” and “walk away”, he warned, while others who remained would be “broken” and forget why they became involved in politics in the first place.
If Ireland continued to have a “dysfunctional” parliament, then mistakes would continue to be made, he added. The current whip system could also lead to failures, he said. Instead, he suggested parliamentarians should be allowed become leaders in the Dáil and be more able to table amendments to legislation.
Independent TD Catherine Murphy said the Government had commandeered the function of the legislator.
Practices in the Dáil were “subservient” to the timetable of the Government, she said. Furthermore, there was an excessive guillotining of legislation and a delayed publication of Bills by the coalition. All this amounted to an “abuse” of the process of running the Dáil, she said.
Promises to reform the Dáil were “superficial” and only amounted to “box ticking”, said the Kildare North TD.