In an op ed in today’s Irish Times, Dr Anthony O’Halloran reminds us of the important constituency service role played by our TDs (see here). He argues that Irish political commentators are universally negative about this role, painting it in negative tones and tending to suggest that such behaviour is atypical. While the article makes for an interesting read, I fear he may be exaggerating somewhat to make his point. Many of us would actually agree with him that constituency service does have an important role to play in our system of representative democracy. Politicians in all countries do partake in this sort of activity – to varying degrees. But the point at issue is that our politicians tend to be off the scale in the degree to which they focus on this dimension over and above their other roles (legislating, or holding government to account). Constituency service is a good thing, but it needs to be in proper proportion.
Some years ago I posted on this blog a tongue-in-cheek piece about TDs kissing chickens. The point I wanted to get across then (as now) is that while some features of constituency service are worthwhile and to be lauded, this must not be the be-all-and-end-all of the role of a TD.