Saturday 3 December 2016

Our double-jobbing politicians are unique - but not in a good way not in a good way

Forcing ministers to quit the Dail could radically improve the quality of governance in Ireland

Published 10/01/2016 | 02:30

Rules: When Barack Obama offered Hilary Clinton the job of secretary of state, she was a senator. In order to join his cabinet, the strict separation of powers contained in the US constitution demanded that she leave congress Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
Rules: When Barack Obama offered Hilary Clinton the job of secretary of state, she was a senator. In order to join his cabinet, the strict separation of powers contained in the US constitution demanded that she leave congress Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Doing two full-time jobs at the same time is not something most people would wish to do. Employers don't like the idea either. Almost no organisation seeks or allows its employees to hold two full-time jobs simultaneously, not least because neither job will be done well.

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But that is exactly how the Irish State is run. Unlike most other democracies, particularly those which don't ape Westminster ways, all Irish ministers are also full-time TDs. And because of an electoral system that makes TDs do more constituency work than their counterparts in most other parliaments, the double-jobbing that Irish ministers do is all the more onerous.

This is a recipe for poor government, and not only because of the overstretch it causes. The near-unique electoral system means that ministers have a much greater incentive to devote energy to their constituencies than they do to toiling at departmental business - there is lots of evidence to show that voters give much more weight to constituency legwork from which they often benefit directly than the often obscure work a minister might do in downtown Dublin.

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