Thursday 21 February 2019

Frank Coughlan: 'Let us praise the Dáil - for one week only'

Notebook

Next week we can go back to being dismissive, but for now we should offer our gratitude to Dáil Éireann and those we elect to sit there. Stock photo: Niall Carson/PA
Next week we can go back to being dismissive, but for now we should offer our gratitude to Dáil Éireann and those we elect to sit there. Stock photo: Niall Carson/PA
Frank Coughlan

Frank Coughlan

I once overheard a man voice admiration for his local TD who, it appears, had done his community a good turn.

There was mutterings and gasps. It was as if he had committed blasphemy. Giving local representatives their due is not on the national curriculum.

You'd swear they end up in Leinster House, council chambers and the European Parliament in spite of the electorate rather than because of it.

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The old gag that it doesn't matter who you vote for because the government always gets in certainly stands the test of time.

It's as if we elect them solely to have someone to abuse when things go belly up, which they sometimes do.

Someone, that is, we can blame for our choices rather than ourselves. God forbid that we take any personal responsibility.

There's a litany of moans that we pitter-patter ad nauseam, like a decade of the rosary.

Sure, they're only in it to line their own pockets; they wouldn't know a day's work if it slapped them in the face and you only see them at election time.

There are certainly notable exceptions that prove that rule. On top of that we have been blessed with a fair share of mediocrities who could only ever string three words together if it was written down for them.

But this week - when we commemorate a 100 years since the inaugural sitting of the First Dáil - perhaps is the time when we acknowledge that, over a turbulent century, they have done the state some service.

Democracy is easily taken for granted when there seems little prospect of ever having to go without.

In those first wobbly decades of statehood both WT Cosgrave and Éamon de Valera were buffeted by many serious challenges both domestic and external. But our democracy survived when many others didn't.

Over the next few years we're going to hear more than we need about the battles, skirmishes, murders and assassinations. About how this nation was forged in blood.

We should never lose sight of the fact that this first Dáil in the Mansion House, powered by the elections of the previous December, was always central to our concept of nationhood.

Our society is far from perfect, our parliament creaks under the weight of its own procedures and our deputies are as busy hanging out of the parish pump as ever they were. But it works.

Just look across the water to the mother of parliaments to observe the chaos that ensues when it looks like representative politics might fail. It's an ugly vista.

Next week we can go back to being dismissive, but for now we should offer our gratitude to Dáil Éireann and those we elect to sit there.

Ch-ch-changes can only go so far, Ms Kondo

MARIE Kondo called to our door last week and I can't get her to leave.

The declutter guru, who is proving to be such a hit on Netflix, didn't actually drop by, of course. But that makes no difference. She's certainly here.

My current wife is a member of her cult and our lives are being, well, reimagined. Stuff we no longer need (which isn't the same as stuff I don't want) is being cast out and everything else tidied away.

I don't watch Ms Kondo, but I know I loathe her.

I certainly hate that my clothes and even unmentionables are being neatly bundled into regimental rows and religious icons eyed for eviction.

But I've taken a stand. If my 1971 Arsenal Cup Final shirt or Bowie vinyls go, so do I.

It's a gamble. If I'm here next week, it's worked.

Irish Independent

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