Wednesday, January 03, 2007
This was taken in the Gorges du Verdon in France in October. I was over rock climbing with a crowd from Kerry and taking what was the last long break for the election. (To be honest, I was looking for an excuse to post a pic!)
Political journalism in Ireland is very desk-bound... Leinster House contains the North Pole and the South Pole of what we write about (though it will change in the next few months). There's a famous polish climber who came up with a delicious quote about his sense of religion. It's better to be in the mountains thinking of God, than to be in church thinking of the mountains. Ditto for politics.
Of course, our TDs and Senators are on the usual six week Christmas break. They are coming back a week early. Big deal! They will be back for six weeks before they are off for St Patrick's Week. Then it's a week (or maybe two) back before Easter. And at that stage, the election will be called.
Every term, the Government chief whip published a list of priority legislation. And every term, they are lucky to get through half of what's promised.
Every time a new Government is elected, there's always brave talk about Dail and Seanad reform. Papers are published. Committees are formed. Grandiose promises are made. And invariably it all comes to nothing. The thing that captures the public imagination is the unconsciably long holidays they take. But the Seanad really needs to be reformed. The Second House is just about democratic, and deeply by proxy at that. The only proper election that takes place is for the university seats. And they are deeply unrepresentative - three for the NUI and three for TCD. And with eleven nominees by the Taoiseach, the Government will always have an inbuilt majority. Yes, the Seanad does have a legislative role, but in reality it is powerless to stall or amend legislation in the manner of the House of Lords in Britain.
It is a talking shop though, to be fair, the quality of debate is often vastly superior to the dirges we get in the Dail.
Bertie Ahern's new year resolution told us a lot of what a great welcome he makes for himself. His resolution: I'll work even harder, if that's possible.
Perhaps he could have added something like: I'll try to be even more modest, if that's possible.