CONOR Lenihan says constituency work by TDs on behalf of individuals has paralysed parliamentary democracy in Ireland and should be banned. Representation on behalf of community groups or organisations should be allowed – but individual complaints on matters like medical cards should be dealt with by an Ombudsman with greater powers "to vindicate the rights of the citizen".
"It is wrong that TDs are spending so much of their time on individual queries in relation to individual citizen issues. One of the best ways we could reform the Dail and reform the way it works for the country is to actually ban TDs from taking individual representations. We should give very strong powers to the Ombudsman to correct that on behalf of the citizen – it should not be the duty of a national legislator, policymaker to be doing that kind of work."
"I would assess at a very conservative figure that 40 per cent of a TD's work is devoted to individual representation and that's not even good for the communities they serve. It's the community that needs to be represented, not the individual. It takes up extraordinary amounts of time. An extraordinary amount of taxpayers' resources are devoted to this kind of activity – and I don't think it reflects well on our political system," he adds.
He says that such reform might have led to better political management of Ireland in the run-up to the crash in the last Dail – for which he says he bears responsibility along with his former colleagues in government. He says too many TDs were deflected by the concerns of individuals rather than taking a broader view of where the country was heading.
"Looking back and reflecting we could have done a lot more. If TDs weren't as distracted and focused on this kind of activity we might even have spotted and corrected some of the mistakes that were made over those 14 years," says Lenihan.
"We might have had a much more real debate about the nature of the boom that we had created if TDs and members of the government had time to focus on those essential and elemental issues that were going on during the boom years."
He says his focus is now Russia and has no plans to return to Irish politics. He's not involved in Fianna Fail, even as an ordinary member.
"I've always said since I moved to Russia in the short to medium term I can't foresee myself being involved in public life.
"I can't be active, I don't live in the country and I don't think it's fair for someone who's not living in the country to be actually active in the political system of the country."
He has some contact with former colleagues in government – some of whom he says found the adjustment to life after politics harder than he has.
And he expresses admiration for his old political adversary Enda Kenny, hoping that the energy and skills he honed in reviving Fine Gael from the ashes of its catastrophic election defeat of 2002 can be applied to turning Ireland around from the economic crash.
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