Backbench TDs told to shut up ‘and know their place’
Independent says political institutions of Republic are ‘mediocre at best’
Niamh Gallagher: said the barriers to women entering representative politics needed to by surmounted
Backbenchers in all parties struggle in the face of a culture which tells them to shut up and do as they are told, a Fine Gael TD told the MacGill Summer School. “Know your place, lad, and bide your time,” was the message Eoghan Murphy encountered which he said was typical of the experience of first-time TDs.
Backbench TDs told the summer school of the need for reform of both national and local government and a redrawing of Dáil practices.
Labour TD Aodhán Ó Riordáin said the modern republic envisaged by the signatories to the Proclamation was based on equality, equal franchise, respect for minorities, religious and civil liberty. “Education is the key to equality,” he said. “We have neglected the needs of poorer children, we have ignored the research that pinpoints best practice, and historically we have not invested where it matters.”
Independent TD Catherine Murphy said the political institutions of the Republic are “mediocre at best”. She cited Lord William Beveridge who outlined his vision for a national health service in Britain in the depths of war in 1942 . “We lack the long view that Beveridge took. He offered hope at a time when people dared not hope. We are now at such a stage,” she said.
Niamh Gallagher, co-founder of Women for Election, said the barriers to women entering representative politics needed to by surmounted.
Shrouded in mystery
She identified the challenges as cash, culture, childcare, candidate selection and confidence. “Women want to know they are qualified to put themselves forward for politics,” she said. “They want to know they have the skills and experience to be a public representative.” The process – of moving from interest to action – is so deeply shrouded in mystery that many women are put off.
John Logue, president of the Union of Students in Ireland, said the problem with our failing political system is not a case of rotten apples, but a rotten barrel. The system itself is flawed and not just a few individuals within it.
Social entrepreneur Ruairí McKiernan, a member of the Council of State, agreed: “We don’t challenge. Not questioning authority is a great problem. When it comes to politics people don’t feel listened to or represented. I don’t believe we have a Republic at the moment but we do have an opportunity to create something new for ourselves.”