First-time TDs report feeling overwhelmed and frustrated

Research paper calls for a more sophisticated induction process


First-time TDs have reported feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and beleaguered by life in the Dáil.

Although most of the 76 new TDs professed anonymously in a new academic study to “loving” their job, they were confronted with practical problems in the Dáil itself and perceived a lack of influence.

Published last night, the research paper by University College Cork academic Mary C Murphy embraced successive surveys of the new TDs in 2011 and 2012.

It calls for a more sophisticated induction process focused explicitly on developing TDs’ knowledge, skills and abilities.

“Frustration among new TDs is palpable, and many are troubled by the nature of the institution. A new Fine Gael TD recalled how he once spoke to an empty Dáil chamber, another lamented the quality of debate and others queried the value of Question Time.”

The paper found that TDs were faced with a deluge of information on their arrival in the Dáil, on top of immediate constituency demands and a “stressful” media environment.

“For one new Fine Gael TD the biggest surprise was the “unrelenting negativity of the media” which “tries to catch you out”.

n spite of these difficulties, 84 per cent of respondents to the 2011 survey aspired to make politics a long-term career and 82 per cent aspired to become a minister. The paper said similar figures are recorded in the 2012 survey, but with some differences.

“All new TDs who responded to the question ‘Do you intend to stand for re-elections?’ answered in the affirmative. Interestingly, one-third of those surveyed did not answer these questions in the second survey,” said the paper.

“Instead some respondents included ambiguous responses such as ‘maybe’ or ‘undecided’. Interviews also revealed some reservations among new TDs in relation to their long-term political career plans. One rural-based TD suggested the long commute from his constituency to Dublin would be difficult to sustain in the long term.

“A new Fine Gael TD suggested that the ‘human costs’ of being a TD are ‘high’ and a number of first-time TDs were not enthusiastic about the possibility of a long-term political career, if it were to be one confined to the backbenches.”

The paper found it was nevertheless apparent that a “majority” of new TDs aspire to a long-term career in politics.