Thursday, 28 September 2006
Business of Dáil: Motion
That, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, on Tuesday, 3 October 2006, statements on disclosures relating to the Mahon tribunal shall be taken for 35 minutes on the conclusion of oral questions to members of the Government and the ordinary routine of business shall resume immediately thereafter with Leaders' Questions and the Order of Business. The following arrangements shall apply in relation to the statements: the statement of the Taoiseach and of the spokespersons for the Fine Gael Party, the Labour Party, the Green Party, Sinn Féin and Deputy Joe Higgins shall not exceed five minutes in each case, and the Taoiseach shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.
The point of the discussion this morning was that an opportunity should be provided to ensure accountability, which would involve questions and answers. There are issues that must be answered directly by way of responses to supplementary questions. Therefore, a motion that did not make provision for Members of the House to ask the Taoiseach direct questions and get a reply to them is not acceptable.
The Opposition Whips put forward a proposal at the Whips' meeting today to have a one hour debate with four speaking slots of 15 minutes and an hour provided for questions and answers in accordance with normal practice in the House on such issues.
What has been offered is totally inadequate from the point of view of the offer that was made here of ensuring accountability and providing an opportunity for every Member of the House, as the Tánaiste said, to be involved in that accountability. A question and answer session is not provided for in this motion. It provides for only five minute speaking slots and then we are expected to sit down and forget about this. It is simply not acceptable.
When I, on behalf of my party, made a formal request to the Government Chief Whip on Monday for such a debate to take place, it was on the basis that direct questions could be asked and direct answers given. I expressed reservations that Leaders' Questions and the Order of Business were not suitable mechanisms for such questions and answers to take place. Yesterday's performance showed that to be true, as did today's Order of Business when the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform refused to answer questions on this matter. What is being offered to us now is not even half a horse. This matter demands a longer debate and an opportunity for all in this House to ask the Taoiseach direct questions and for the Taoiseach, for once since this controversy has arisen, to give direct answers.
I appeal to the Chief Whip to accede to the request of the Opposition speakers. There is inadequate time for dealing with this matter and I believe the Taoiseach would welcome a question and answer session, in the first instance, to properly respond to the questions that clearly exist in the public domain and in this Chamber. We should address this matter fully and the Minister of State should accede to the additional proposal.
A meeting of the Whips took place and we discussed this matter at some length. As Members are aware, there are opportunities for those who can speak on Leaders' Questions to raise any question they wish under that procedure. Members also have the option to raise this matter by way of Private Members' business. Therefore, the proposal I put forward is the most reasonable one in these circumstances.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 64 (Michael Ahern, Barry Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, Séamus Brennan, Joe Callanan, Pat Carey, Donie Cassidy, Beverley Flynn, Mary Coughlan, Brian Cowen, John Cregan, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Noel Davern, Síle de Valera, Noel Dempsey, Tony Dempsey, John Dennehy, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Mildred Fox, Pat Gallagher, Jim Glennon, Noel Grealish, Mary Hanafin, Mary Harney, Seán Haughey, Máire Hoctor, Joe Jacob, Cecilia Keaveney, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Tony Killeen, Séamus Kirk, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Conor Lenihan, Tom McEllistrim, John Moloney, Donal Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Willie O'Dea, Liz O'Donnell, John O'Donoghue, Denis O'Donovan, Noel O'Flynn, Batt O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Peter Power, Seán Power, Dick Roche, Mae Sexton, Michael Smith, Dan Wallace, Joe Walsh, Ollie Wilkinson)
Against the motion: 49 (Bernard Allen, Dan Boyle, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Paul Connaughton, Paudge Connolly, Joe Costello, Jerry Cowley, Ciarán Cuffe, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Eamon Gilmore, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Tony Gregory, Séamus Healy, Joe Higgins, Michael D Higgins, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Kathleen Lynch, Pádraic McCormack, Dinny McGinley, Finian McGrath, Paul McGrath, Paddy McHugh, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Catherine Murphy, Gerard Murphy, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Fergus O'Dowd, Jim O'Keeffe, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Séamus Pattison, Michael Ring, Eamon Ryan, Seán Ryan, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, Billy Timmins, Liam Twomey)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg.
Question declared carried.