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Double-jobbing politicians give us a diluted service



Leinster House

Leinster House

Leinster House

To find agreement on anything in Irish politics is a big ask, but if there is an enduring ideal it is that the primary role of a parliamentarian is to serve.

Such a notion sits uncomfortably alongside the fact that one in four of our current TDs has another job or second income source. Despite being the Dáil’s biggest landlord, Michael Healy-Rae did not believe it a “proper question to be asked by somebody” when approached by this newspaper about how much he makes.

We make no apologies for asking public representatives about their earnings. Given the amount they are paid by the State, taxpayers are entitled to know how much time they spend working on their behalf.

The more outside interests our elected representatives have, the more demands on their attention. The basic salary for a backbench TD is €96,189. The average annual earnings for a worker in Ireland is €40,283.

The question the man or woman in the street may well ask is an obvious one: Why would a TD earning more than twice what they do need another job or income stream?

Time and energy spent pursuing interests other than those of their constituents may raise issues about their commitment to office. They may regard this as unfair. Some may have the acuity and spare capacity to be able to maintain a professional career while also being in the Dáil.

Yet we are led to understand the demands of running a constituency clinic and attending to house business are arduous. How compatible is such an understanding with double-jobbing?

It is because the responsibility is so great that remuneration and pensions are as high as they are. TDs declare their incomes, so there is no suggestion of anything untoward. There may be a concern that the more outside interests a TD has, the more they run the risk of a conflict of interest.

Maintaining two jobs raises the possibility of the quality of service being diluted. If they have to answer to the needs of others, how can they best concentrate on the needs of the voter?

The needs of voters might compete with the interests of clients. Being a servant of two masters is something that comes with a health warning going back to biblical times.

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Presumably, a TD has only 24 hours in their day. Some may well undertake contracts and perform services seamlessly without compromising public duties. But the order becomes considerably taller the more they are extended.

The perception must never take hold that the job of the TD is something that can be done in one’s spare time.

As has been said before, if one has an inclination toward public service, then one should focus predominantly on serving the public, not one’s self.

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