Kenny's 'Frontline' degrades politics, says Higgins


COMMITTEE ON CONSTITUTION:TELEVISION PROGRAMMES such as RTÉ One’s The Frontlinepresented by Pat Kenny “degrade politics”, Labour TD for Galway West Michael D Higgins has told an Oireachtas committee.

Mr Higgins was critical of contemporary trends in media coverage of political events during a presentation to the Committee on the Constitution, which is looking at possible electoral reform.

“Really bad programmes like The Frontline, presented by Pat Kenny, are ones which really degrade politics altogether. You assemble an audience . . . you insist that you’re going to go from one to the other, not allowing anybody to finish.

“And then you turn to the camera, and say ‘that is all we have time for, I’m afraid’.”

Mr Higgins said when he was first elected to the Dáil in 1981, a serious political reporter or commentator would have been acquainted with political philosophy and history, but “that is rather gone now”.

He said most commentators now ceased working sometime between lunchtime on Wednesday and Thursday morning, after that it was “a matter of gathering gossip for the Sunday papers”.

Mr Higgins called on all those who stood for election to “have more bottle” and stand up to poorly informed and regular attacks on politicians.

Referring to clientelism, he said some TDs would always be “insecure enough” to go around knocking on doors asking people if they had a problem, “when they should be spending time with their loved ones”.

He also said there was no constitutional basis for the “hegemony” of the Department of Finance in relation to the Cabinet. It was an old-fashioned view that other government departments had to seek permission from the Department of Finance on quite minor matters.

Meanwhile, Labour TD for Dublin Mid West Joanna Tuffy gave a presentation defending the existing electoral system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote (PR-STV) in multi-seat constituencies. She said civic campaigns had been established in other countries to demand that PR-STV be brought in.

Ms Tuffy said she was opposed to the introduction of a “list” system because she believed it would take the decision about who was elected to the Dáil away from voters and make it solely the preserve of the political parties.