TDs 'put local issues ahead of Dail duties'
Published 05/02/2010 | 05:00
TDs spend less than half their time contributing to national politics or speaking in the Dail, a survey has revealed.
The Dail survey shows that TDs consider looking after their constituents far more important than making laws that affect the country.
Less than half of the 222 TDs and senators replied to the survey conducted on behalf of the Joint Committee on the Constitution.
Even fewer (22pc) cabinet and junior ministers replied to the questionnaire.
Intense rivalry between candidates of the same party leads to TDs doing even more constituency work. And TDs said their constituency workload increased if they had previously lost their seat.
Rural TDs also spend far more time on constituency work than their urban colleagues.
But the research -- conducted by two PhD students at Trinity College, Sein O Muineachain and Matthew Wall -- did not ask TDs how many hours a week or days a year they work.
The findings show that MPs in Malta -- elected by the same voting system -- place more emphasis on their role as national politicians.
However, politics at national level is not a priority for the majority of TDs. When they do contribute to national politics, 26pc of their time is spent attending Dail committees.
Preparing changes to laws and speaking in the Dail accounted for just over one-fifth of their work at national level, while asking ministers questions about legislation takes up just 13pc of their time.
The results of the research will form part of recommendations to be made to the Government at Easter on how TDs are elected and how they do their job.
A growing number of TDs also want changes to how they are elected to the Dail. Over 40pc of those who replied to the questionnaire believe that a new voting system should be introduced to change the way TDs are elected.
It is a marked increase in the appetite for change, compared to a similar survey in 1999 when just over a quarter of TDs wanted a new system.
The preferred new means of electing TDs was a 'mixed system' whereby voters typically cast one vote to elect an individual TD and a separate vote for the party of choice.
Only Ireland and Malta currently use the complicated proportional representation by single transferable vote (PR-STV) system.
Experts believe the current system to be an excellent means of keeping TDs in touch with constituents, because every vote on the ballot paper counts. But they also argue it forces TDs to spend too much time going to funerals and holding clinics, and not enough time contributing at a national level.