Today's news that Independent TDs Mick Wallace (left) and 'Ming' Flanagan have been forced to apologize after being caught slurring another parliamentarian 'Miss Piggy' is hardly a surprising revelation.
Wallace is the same TD (broadly Congressman) who is supposedly planning on defying a planned new dress code for the parliament by continuing to wear his bright pink t-shirts to parliamentary sessions, and whose previous summer employment includes stints working as a human scarecrow (as well as a property developer, before apparently realizing that politics was his calling), while 'Ming' Flanagan (real name Luke) is a West of Ireland TD whose persona revolves primarily around his much publicized use of, and campaign for the legalization of, cannabis, and who has previously served jail time for refusing to pay a littering fine.
And while it may be pushing it a bit to say that for Wallace the Miss Piggy remark and his trademark bright, pinks shirts are in any way connected, they do demonstrate a creeping disregard for decorum and the office of a TD at Ireland's upper legislative chamber that seems to have been picking up steam in recent years.
Green Party TD Paul Gogarty's famous "f**k you" lashout at Labour Deputy Éamonn Stagg, which supposedly prompted concerned members of parliament to hastily draft an experimentary list of outlawed words which could not be uttered while debating in the Dáil, was probably the most shocking example of this, at least in recent parlimentary memory, but the Ceann Comhairle - the officer of the Irish parliament responsible (among other things) for keeping order and keeping the day's agenda going - seems to have been getting a good bit of vocal training recently in his usually futile efforts to quell unruly TDs and their often chaotic arguments.
Kerry politician and scion of the infamous Healy-Rae political dynasty Michael Healy Rae could also be added to this list of less than exemplary TDs, after a tabloid's Freedom of Information request unearthed the fact that he had used, or authorized his staff to use, the parliament's telephones to try convince people to vote for him on a televised gameshow - Celebrities Gone Wild - which he was competing in at the time (the end to this story is that Healy-Rae was unapologetically sacked from a State board and forced to pay back the phone bill as a result).
Irish members of parliament have also taken very strongly to using Twitter as a means of communicating with constituents in recent times, as well, of course, as gossiping about one another, and it was a Tweet from Fine Gael TD Simon Coveney that set the wheels of the whole 'Gargle-gate' scandal in motion (in which Cowen allegedly came on national radio while still badly hungover).
So it may just be me, but it does seem as if Irish politics is headed on a downward spiral, at least so far as decorum and the respectability of some of its members is concerned, and while it's one thing for the country to descend into financial chaos, forced emigration, etc, it's quite another for a situation in which public representatives are allowed debate issues of national importance while dressed as if they're heading for the beach, call other members of parliament 'Miss Piggy', swear at each other, and use the chamber's telephones to try win votes for Celebrities Gone Wild to be allowed persist. Collectively, it risks turning the whole business of national politics into little more than a thinly glorified farce -- and that will do nothing to aid its already damaged image.
As former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said during a celebrated farewell address before the British parliament, the people in politics are a direct reflection of the greatness of the political system itself. Unfortunately it seems as if that's a lesson that some of our own Deputies could learn.