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This TD wants to radically change the way we elect him and his 157 colleagues

Brendan Griffin has proposed a way of potential ending ‘parish pump’ politics.

Brendan Griffin
Brendan Griffin
Image: Fine Gael

A FINE GAEL deputy wants to radically alter the way TDs are elected by creating smaller constituencies where just one Dáil representative is elected. Currently, that number stands at between three and five politicians.

Brendan Griffin’s proposed 34th Amendment of the Constitution (Dáil Éireann) Bill 2014 would give effect to a referendum to change the electoral system. It was introduced in the Dáil yesterday and could be debated in the coming months.

The change would mean that one TD is elected for one constituency under the alternative vote system. This is where voters rank candidates in order of preference – as is the case now – but only one is elected once they reach the quota.

Griffin believes this would eliminate ‘parish pump’ politics where TDs are too often focussed on constituency matters at the expense of their work as national legislators.

He said there is too much duplication in the work being done by TDs based in the same constituency and that some sitting deputies are afraid to delegate work to councillors who might be a threat to them in the future.

With the number of TDs in the next Dáil being reduced to 158 (including the Ceann Comhairle who is automatically re-elected), Griffin wants to change the system so the 157 TDs that are elected by the voters come from 157 constituencies.

He acknowledged that while a referendum will not happen before the next election, he wants to start the debate.

“People need to ask themselves: ‘What do I really want out of my parliamentarian? Do I want the guy who’ll do the potholes, who turns up at every funeral, or do I actually want someone who scrutinises legislation, who’ll contribute to policy, who’ll give ideas and try to bring those ideas to fruition,” the Kerry South TD told TheJournal.ie. 

Dublin South West By Elections Campaigns Under Griffin's proposals the ballot papers would work the same way but only one candidate would be elected. Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Griffin believes that constituencies could be divided up in a way similar to current local authority boundaries, citing the example of his home county of Kerry which currently has four electoral districts for the county council.

“Take a county like Kerry, it’s huge geographically and an enormous constituency to get around at the moment. It’s the same in Mayo and Galway East,” he explained.

“At the moment you have a constituency where you have a bit of Cavan, you have Sligo, a bit of Donegal and all of Leitrim – all in the one constituency. It makes no sense whatsoever.”

“In many areas [under the changes] you would have county boundaries being respected.”

A previous version of the bill proposed to reduce the number of TDs to 101 but Griffin said it was a case of “too much too soon” where 90 per cent of the debate focussed on the reduction in numbers.

“Really the main force driving the bill from my point of view was to change the system of election as distinct from the numbers,” Griffin said.

Ironically, Griffin is renowned for his local work and has three offices in his Kerry South constituency. He caused controversy in 2012 when it emerged he was giving half his salary to employ an extra teacher in a small primary school on the Dingle Peninsula.

Of his local work, he said: “If I didn’t do that I would lose my seat. As long as this is the system we have no alternative but to do that.”

The TD is also a member of the controversial Fine Gael five-a-side club of backbenchers who have called for greater political reform and deeper budget cuts. Griffin recently said he was close to leaving the party over the recent water charges controversy.

WATCH: Who are the Fine Gael five-a-side club – and just what the hell are they up to?

Read: This TD is ‘very close’ to leaving Fine Gael

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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