There has been a steadily growing debate among many in the political commentariat about the role of TDs. I say debate, in reality it has mainly been an exercise in bashing TDs for their constituency work, claiming that this has been at the cost of their national duties.
The curious hypocrisy of all this is that the pundits who lambast TDs for doing constituency work would rather engage in and even fuel personality-driven, who's-in and-who's-out commentary than serious political analysis.
The past week has been a prime example. Most of the political coverage focused on who might challenge Cowen, how they might do it, who might back this motion and what implications it would have for the people concerned.
Despite the coverage of rumour and speculation, the much-hyped confrontation never came to pass. I am not saying the machinations in the Fianna Fail parliamentary party did not merit coverage -- but rumour and speculation is hardly news.
The tragic fact is that on the same days the media and political opposition were focused on a Fianna Fail leadership heave that never was we saw a number of major developments in the EU, which may well shape the rest of 2011 both economically and politically. While our news bulletins were transfixed by the prospect of a political soap opera at home, Portugal and Spain announced they had managed to borrow on the open bond market, Germany confirmed that it achieved an impressive 3.6 per cent growth in 2010 and the European Central Bank warned of creeping inflation and rising prices.
These are significant developments, but even more significant was French President Nicolas Sarkozy's unwarranted and unjustified attack on our corporation tax rate.
Curiously, these barely rated a mention from the opposition leaders. But, why would they address major policy concerns when they could be playing personality politics?
However, the fact that these developments do not excite any interest from the opposition parties should not stop the thinking public from considering them.
Ireland's acceptance of the EU/IMF support package was a vital step in saving the euro from the ongoing market assaults.
Yes, Ireland's membership of the eurozone is vital in our withstanding the global downturn. Yes, the EU did come to Ireland's support with the financial stability programme, but this was not some altruistic act. The EU needed to halt the attacks on the euro. It was cheaper to fight that battle on Irish economic soil than on Portuguese or Spanish territory.
To put it crudely, the EU owes Ireland. President Sarkozy needs to be reminded of this fact. Ireland will not be a whipping boy for Sarkozy's campaign to restore his credibility at home.
This Government and its successor needs to remind President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel that we took a major hit to our international credibility, not to mention the political damage at home, at their behest. These, after all, are the same two leaders whose idle comments started much of the pressure on the euro and Ireland.
The FG/Lab government-in-waiting prides itself on membership of the two biggest political groupings in Europe -- the Christian Democrats and the Socialists.
Sarkozy's direct attack on Ireland's interests, which he suggests has the backing of Merkel, throws down the gauntlet to FG in particular. What benefits does Ireland derive from their alignment with these leaders?
Perhaps Enda Kenny would like to demonstrate this influence now and get his party's French and German allies to recant. All he has to do is put the same effort into refuting someone who attacks Ireland's interests as he spends on attacking the Government. It is not a huge ask of a man who thinks himself ready to lead.
Willie O'Dea is a Fianna Fail TD for Limerick East