FG TD turns to Skype for clin­ics with con­stituents

The Irish Times - - Home News - HARRY McGEE

The weekly po­lit­i­cal clinic has been a sta­ple of Ir­ish pol­i­tics for gen­er­a­tions. Dáil deputies have criss-crossed their con­stituen­cies at week­ends stop­ping in draughty halls, pubs and shops to hear about prob­lems with plan­ning per­mis­sion, med­i­cal cards or fund­ing for lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Busier sched­ules and chang­ing life­styles mean that politicians are un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure to meet the de­mands of their con­stituents. This can be par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult if you have re­cently been ap­pointed a min­is­ter of state but are still serv­ing one of the largest con­stituen­cies in the State.

Fine Gael TD for Cork South West Jim Daly says his pro­mo­tion to the ju­nior min­is­te­rial ranks co­in­cided with a huge surge in de­mand for peo­ple seek­ing to at­tend his clin­ics. His con­stituency is vast: Castle­town­bere is 100km from his of­fice in Ban­don and the roads are a long way shy of mo­tor­way stan­dard.

Ac­cess to tech­nol­ogy

To re­solve it, he came up with the idea of host­ing sup­ple­men­tary clin­ics from his Dublin of­fice us­ing Skype. Mr Daly, a Min­is­ter of State in the Depart­ment of Health, has al­ready con­ducted some af­ter-hours clin­ics on­line and is now plan­ning to hold more such one-on-one meet­ings with con­stituents, even those with no ac­cess to tech­nol­ogy.

“One of my staff mem­bers will go out with the lap­top for Mon­day, Tues­day and Wed­nes­day evenings when I’m in Dublin,” he said. “I’ve car­ried out over a cou­ple dozen Skype clin­ics now and they’re very help­ful for peo­ple.”

‘Huge de­mand’

He said the de­mand for clin­ics quadru­pled when he be­came a Min­is­ter of State. “There was such huge de­mand that it was lead­ing to de­lays, long queues and time pres­sure, so we were look­ing for an al­ter­na­tive way to fa­cil­i­tate peo­ple and al­le­vi­ate the pres­sure on the tra­di­tional clin­ics,” he said.

“I be­gan by mak­ing phone calls to peo­ple, but I think peo­ple pre­fer to speak to you face to face. So I said I would try Skype and see if it went well, and we’ve been very pleas­antly sur­prised.”

It won’t all be Skype from here on. He will still do weekly clin­ics in Sk­ib­bereen, Clon­akilty and Ban­don but he hopes the on­line meet­ings will elim­i­nate the de­lays and wait­ing times.

Jim Daly: “I’ve car­ried out over a cou­ple dozen Skype clin­ics now”

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