THE YOUNGEST MEMBER of the Dáil has hit out at his fellow TDs for taking focus away from their day jobs and getting bogged down in personal rows and insults.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Simon Harris said that the recent name-calling and one-upmanship by certain representatives is not what TDs were elected to do.
After tweeting about the “antics, phony wars and bickering” of the last few days, Harris said his views may be ironic on account of him being the youngest sitting TD.
He told TheJournal.ie that he used the micr0-blogging site to make his point as that was the medium being used by others to take swipes at each other.
He said that Ireland’s TDs need to “get a grip, take stock and remember what were elected to do”.
The remarks come after Fine Gael chairman Charlie Flanagan used Twitter to criticise Social Protection Minister Joan Burton for questioning the wisdom of Fine Gael ministers meeting with Michael Lowry.
“Has Joan Burton a government deathwish,” he tweeted.
Responding to that tweet, Labour TD Colm Keaveney said singling people out is “not on” in politics.
Echoing those sentiments, Harris said that the bickering over the past week centred on personalities and not policy.
“It is frustrating for Irish people to see a situation whereby politicians are rowing over issues that are not based on policy. One would presume that being the youngest TD, I should be the most immature – but that certainly hasn’t been the case,” he added.
At the Fine Gael Ard Fheis, the Taoiseach was very conscientious and said that we are a long way off having anything to celebrate. I know nobody is a saint, we do fall into the trap sometimes and I’m not above that fray. But we need to keep focus and not allow ourselves get taken in with silly distractions.
Following his input to the row, Harris received some Twitter feedback on the Dáil’s sitting hours.
Asked whether he believes the Dáil should sit for longer and more often, Harris said that is has an “open mind on the issue”.
“It is really up to the Irish electorate – and what they want,” he explained. “What do the Irish electorate want their TDs to do? A balance has to be reached between being a national politician and providing constituency services.”
He added that as a backbencher, he feels this Government has provided much more opportunity for him to have his say, bring forward legislation and contribute to important debates.
However, the 25-year-old called for more media coverage of the new Friday Dáil sittings.
This Dáil is sitting significantly longer than the last, giving backbenchers from both parties greater opportunities. On Fridays, the debates are always very interesting and on a wide range of topics. It is also interesting that they often end up being less partisan and are not divided solely along party lines.
Harris is currently working on a Bill in relation to Special Needs Education legislation which would see the National Council for Special Education come under the scrutiny of the Office of the Ombudsman for Children for the first time.