Quick note on "pairing"

I'd imagine that few people, other than anoraks such as myself, had any idea what Enda Kenny was talking about when he announced that Fine Gael would refuse to "pair" with the Government over their refusal to allow a debate on the economy.

The Times helpfully explains that:

Under the vote-pairing deal, opposition TDs absent themselves from votes if a minister – with whom they have been “paired” cannot be present due to official business.

I'd just like to make it clear that it is not the case that pairing occurs only when a minister is away on official business. In fact, Fine Gael have quite willingly engaged in this practice when backbenchers have been away for personal reasons. They may be valid personal reasons, but so what? The point of pairing is to prevent important state business from grinding to a halt, which is something that all parties (at least theoretically) have an interest in. If the ruling parties can't get enough TDs elected to ensure their bills never fall due to too many non-official absences on their part, it's not the role of the opposition to give them a leg up.

And if you want to know how I know that FG (and others, incidentally, but never Sinn Féin) have engaged in this practice, it's because occasionally the list of "official pairs" inadvertently finds its way into my clutches.

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