Saturday’s Pledge Day kicked off the visits more than 1,300 Irish constituents pledged to make to their TDs. All over the country, people have been meeting their elected representatives in offices over hairdressers, in industrial estate cubbyholes, in high-street store-fronts, and in the dodgy lounges of pubs with the Friday night beermats being hoovered up around them.
For many people who have never ventured out to visit their TDs before, it has been surprising to learn that yes, this is how democracy actually works, woolly jumper-clad TDs, hoovers and all. But not all TDs have Saturday clinics. And not everyone was able to make it on Saturday to visit their TDs.
Here’s why it is important to keep going to your TDs this week:
On Monday the Fine Gael and Labour Party TDs will carry on meeting their constituents, gathering a sense of how important free access to the Internet is to the voters they meet at their clinics. They’ll let their party whips (the TDs appointed by each Government party to manage their backbenchers) know that this is an issue which is coming up on the ground as well as on the radio, on the streets, in the papers and, obviously, on the Internet. Those Monday meetings with TDs will be vital because…
On Tuesday morning the Cabinet will meet. They’ll receive a briefing paper from the party whips, telling them if anything has been coming up in the clinics since the previous week. Every pledged visit that actually takes place will be in that report. The Cabinet, we can imagine, will want to discuss all the representations, legal argument, political cost and potential benefits, if any, of Sean Sherlock’s plan. They may then make a decision to abandon the current plan or carry on. Whichever way they go, keep meeting Labour TDs on Tuesday because…
On Wednesday, Minister Sherlock is scheduled to give a briefing on his SOPA Ireland law to the Labour Parliamentary Party, which is made up of all TDs and Senators. (He was scheduled to give it last Wednesday, but following Tuesday night’s Dáil debate, he was suddenly unable to attend…)
This is the opportunity for the TDs to tell Sean Sherlock that his plan is costing each and every one of them votes and support. The more TDs pledgers have visited, the more voices he’ll hear. This is known as a ‘backbench rebellion’ and it is what can force change on the most stubborn minister.
Every single person who has pledged turning out to visit their TDs will be what causes that rebellion. So far, the 80,000 people involved in this campaign have succeeded in having this law questioned, published, delayed and debated in an unprecedented Dáil debate. None of those things would have happened without the unprecedented number of dedicated and vocal people who have driven this campaign forward. This is the final hurdle, and each of the 1,300 pledged visits counts enormously.
Visit your Fine Gael and Labour TDs and tell them the cost in votes if they let this law go through.
Together we can break this bad law, and make history as we do it.