Newsflash: Country in a State of Chassis
Deaglán de Bréadún
While I would not necessarily agree with Vincent Browne, in his Irish Times column today, that the Oireachtas debate on the Bank bail-out Bill should have been a long-drawn-out affair, as took place in the US Congress, there is a good deal of truth in his more general assertion that Dáil Éireann is a fairly toothless body nowadays: the legislative branch of Government has been pretty well sidelined by the executive branch (Cabinet).
There are intelligent and capable people among our parliamentarians but they have been reduced to the level of voting fodder for a good deal of the time. Cabinet is all and Ministers are mini-gods, swanning around in their state cars with civil servants as well as politically-appointed spindoctors and special advisers to tend to their every need. A female former minister once told me, somewhat indelicately, that the staff “would nearly pick up your knickers after you”.
As a debating chamber, the Dáil is a grave disappointment (maybe just a grave!) TDs are frequently reduced to the level of constituency messenger-boys (and a few girls): a role some of them appear to gladly accept.
It’s a sad state of affairs but reflects a more general malaise of conformism throughout the country. God be with the days when there was vibrant debate about the North, women’s rights, birth control, abortion, divorce, property speculation, homelessness, industrial issues, etc, etc. It’s not the just the West that’s asleep, all of Ireland is overcome with torpor. Or as the Seán O’Casey character declared: “The whole counthry’s in a state o’ chassis.”
Deaglán de Bréadún, Political Correspondent, The Irish Times