TDs worry: It is still too dangerous to return to Leinster House

Question: What is the average age of members of the Dáil? The youngest TD is Fianna Fáil’s James O’Connor, who was elected at the absurd age of 22, and is the youngest by nearly a decade from the Social Democrat’s Holly McKeever-Cairns. The median TD, though, is well over 40, and probably closer to 50 years of age.

Meaning that unless something very odd is happening, the overwhelming majority of these bozos have been vaccinated. So what’s the hesitation about going back to their place of work?

The Oireachtas has spent more than €1.8m on its use of the National Convention Centre since June last year.

The figures, released to The Sunday Times under Freedom of Information legislation reveal at least €1,697,867.68 has been spent for use of the Centre beside the River Liffey in Dublin. An additional €139,649.21 was spent on fit-out costs.

The Oireachtas has rejected calls to return to Leinster House presently, with Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl stating it would result in an “unacceptable risk to all in our parliamentary community”.

What is the risk, exactly? They can’t hide behind the young parliamentary assistants and other staff, since those people have continued to work in their parliamentary offices in Kildare Street since the beginning of the pandemic. The only purpose – only purpose – of moving to the convention centre was to allow them to engage in parliamentary debate in a socially distanced manner. But since the vast majority of them are now vaccinated, isn’t it safe to go back? And where is the scientific evidence to the contrary?

These are the same people, collectively, by the way, who told teachers, earlier in the pandemic, to “open a window and get on with it”. Why can’t they do the same?

This is not simply a matter of cost, either. The costs, while annoying, are actually fairly minor in the grander scheme of things. The main point, actually, is about setting an example of normality. How can the public feel safe and reassured when our leaders are too scared to go about their business as normal? They talk endlessly about a “vaccine dividend” – where is that dividend when it comes to a simple matter of going back to work?

There might be other factors at play here, of course. It’s possible that some of them have gotten to quite like, and enjoy, the more spacious and comfortable convention centre. It is possible too that the Government does not want a fight with far left TDs who would, make no mistake, kick up an awful fuss about how the Government was risking their lives, or something, by making them go back into Leinster House.

But those are minor concerns, compared to the political, and leadership, dividend on offer. It would be a very simple way for the Government to show people that the vaccine works, and things are getting back to normal, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It would be leadership by example, and, in its own small way, a chink of hope for people. But they are determined, for whatever reason, not to do it.

Which makes me, as a double vaccinated person, wonder: What was the point, exactly?

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