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Dail Eireann: Use only in emergencies

Read more about: Economy, Europe, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Government, Green Party, Labour Party, Parties     Print This Post

It didn’t seem possible that the Irish political system could look more busted today than it did yesterday but that’s where the version of Lanigan’s Ball from the Greens leaves it.   Michael Lowry — having had the leverage of his side-deal with the Coalition for nearly 3 years in return for his vote, runs to the hills at a time of true crisis and declares that it’s up to Fine Gael and Labour — shut out of government by deals with independents and small parties — to help pass the budget.   Fianna Fail, at least under their current leader, announce that

We believe that there is a clear duty on all members of Dáil Éireann to facilitate the passage of these measures in the uniquely serious circumstances in which we find ourselves. The political and financial stability of the State requires no less.

So again ministers who couldn’t have cared less about the Dail in the day-to-day running of the country suddenly want all its members aboard for a budget which they have no hand in creating.  Perhaps if you like parliamentary government, it should be seen as a good news that the days of the country being run through social partnership meetings and quangos have been put to one side.   But is it really the function of the parliamentary opposition to wait every 2 decades until the country is in a real shambles and then be called upon to vote with Fianna Fail for the sake of the country?   If, as periodically comes up for discussion, you take the view that there’s a dearth of talent in Irish politics, it doesn’t help when that’s the basic job description.

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3 Responses to “Dail Eireann: Use only in emergencies”

  1. # Comment by Veronica Nov 23rd, 2010 09:11


    A couple of weeks ago Labour and FG received an offer to work with the government on the framing of the budget. Their finance spokespersons were invited into the DoF to meet officials etc. What happened? They spurned the offer and treated the process involved with contempt. Understandable from their own political perspective and desire to get into office themselves asap; but one that makes protestations of acting in ‘the national interest’ sound as hollow as the same protestation coming from the Taosieach yesterday evening. Yesterday’s pantomime was an extraordinary spectacle at every level of Irish politics; sheer panic in motion, which reflects no credit on any of the actors involved.

    Reform of the Dail is essential, and opposition parties always demand its reform when they’re in opposition, but soon forget about it once they’re in power. There are no Dail ‘debates’. The executive has complete power over decision making because of the crazy whip system that insists deputies must vote along party lines, or risk being consigned to the sinbin (or drummed out altogether as happened to Des O’Malley back in the 1980s), irrespective of the merits of argument for or against any proposal. So debates are simply opportunities for people to grandstand and throw shapes and maybe even attract some media attention to their performance, which may help their own individual standing with the public but makes no difference to public policy.

    Why should deputies on the backbenches or on the opposition benches inform themselves on policy issues when it doesn’t matter a tuppeny damn what they think or put forward because it’s going nowhere anyway? In a profile in Saturday’s Irish Times, Leo Varadkar recalled that when he first entered Leinster House in 2007 a senior party colleague scoffed at his naievety and told him that ‘we don’t do policy around here’, or words to that effect. Why would any self respecting individual want to be part of such a system, a system that amounts to a quasi-dictatorship, based as it is on reverence to the line of ‘the dear leader’ in every party and for parties in government to the ultimate leader, the Taoiseach of the day? Similarly, the Committee system is a joke, whereby deputies swan in, ask the same questions as whoever spoke before them, always from the narrow perspective of getting a line or two in the media that day or the following day, and then swan back out again. The Seanad is, perhaps, the biggest waste of time of the lot. The wonder of it all is that, among all the charlatans and wide boys and idiots in Irish politics, so many intelligent and committed individuals also take the plunge and devote their lives to public service as parliamentarians.

    In the thirty odd years that I’ve been following politics closely it’s got worse, not better. What this crisis exposes, yet again, is that the political system has failed us and not just its parliamentary institutions. What’s worrying is that when this crisis passes, as it will, the opportunity for meaningful reform will pass along with it.

  2. # Comment by EddieL Nov 23rd, 2010 14:11

    I have been waiting for the “Opposition”, (Fine Gael or Labour?) to convene or reconvene the Dail to propose a vote of “NO CONFIDENCE” in FF but it seems I have been waiting in vain. This shows that the “Opposition” has no interest in doing anything for the country.

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