When I arrived home earlier this afternoon I found my freshly delivered copy of the Local Wicklow Times awaiting me in the letter box. Now this publication is never going to make onto the essential reading lists for the world's leading opinion shapers but the front page this week really summed up a symptom which shines a light on the dysfunctionality of our political and electoral system.
The leading article refers to the vacant Minister of State for Agriculture position which created by the untimely and tragic death of Deputy Shane McEntee before Christmas.
The headline is:
You can see where this is going.WILL ENDA IGNORE CO. WICKLOW AGAIN?
The article opens as follows:
So Wicklow deserves a minister? How exactly does a county deserve a minister? Surely the most able person for the job should be appointed? Of course the article, after hitting with the local angle first, moves onto the issue of the best qualified candidate but apparently all of Wicklow's FG TDs are "best qualified". No TD from any other constituency is mentioned.There is widespread alarm in Wicklow Fine Gael that Enda Kenny may bypass the county once again when appointing the new Minister of State for Agriculture. Observers from all political parties agree that County Wicklow deserves a Minister, or at least a Minister of State, having delivered three TD's at the last election; especially as all those were elected as poll toppers.
Also, the elected Wicklow Deputies would appear to be the best qualified to fill the vacancy that has arisen from the tragic death of Shane McEntee.
Now both Billy Timmins and Andrew Doyle have been opposition spokespersons on Agriculture, Timmins has a degree in Agricultural Economics and Doyle currently chairs the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture so they actually are decent candidates. Harris got lots of votes and that's about it. In any event he cites Doyle as the best candidate for the job. The article concludes by saying Timmins has no chance as he voted against Kenny in the heave and the Taoiseach can't stand him so Doyle is the only realistic contender.
However the main thrust of the article is that Wicklow needs a minister, Wicklow deserves a minister and Enda will have let Wicklow down again if we don't get a minister. Suitability is very much a secondary consideration.
Unfortunately suitability will also be very much a secondary consideration when Enda comes to make his decision. Remember the "Limerick needs a man in cabinet" when Willie finally fell on his sword? Enda will as always consider who is his friend and what constituency needs a boost before the next GE when making such an appointment. Some competency is supposedly required but not necessarily all that much. Phil Hogan anyone?
This just goes to show how the PR-STV system of large multi-seat constituencies pushes issues such as geography to the fore in making appointments both in the minds of politicians and in the minds of the public. Quite frankly, it's b*llocks. Best person for the job should be the only consideration.
All politics may be local but when it comes to Ireland it sometimes seems that no politics is national.