Friday, 6 May 2016
Business of Dáil
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders that: the proceedings on No. 2, approval of nomination of other members of the Government, shall be brought to a conclusion after three hours and 45 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: the speech of the Taoiseach and the leaders of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, AAA-People Before Profit, Independents 4 Change, Social Democrats, the Green Party, or a Member nominated in their stead, and a non-party Deputy, who shall be called upon in that order, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; the speech of each other Member, who shall be called upon in the following sequence, shall not exceed ten minutes in each case: Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, AAA-People Before Profit, Independents 4 Change, Social Democrats, the Green Party, non-party; and Members may share time; until the Dáil shall otherwise order, the order in which questions to members of the Government other than the Taoiseach shall be asked in accordance with Standing Order 39(2) shall be that in which Members of the Government will be listed in a resolution approving their nomination by the Taoiseach for appointment by the President; and the Dáil shall adjourn on the conclusion of No. 2 tonight at 10.30 p.m. and resume at 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 17 May 2016, when the Order of Business will be decided on that day.
There are three proposals to be put to the House. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 2 agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 3, without debate, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal that the Dáil, on its rising today, shall adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 17 May 2016 agreed to?
I take it the Ministers want to read into their briefs over the coming week, but there is an urgent necessity for the Parliament to organise itself as well.
I ask that early next week the Whips of all parties meet with the Chief Whip to work out, for example, how many Oireachtas committees there will be. We need to get the committee system up and running as a matter of urgency. There has not been a proper Whip system in operation for the past two weeks and we have been quite tolerant of how debates have been organised in a haphazard manner regarding timing. It is important, coming out of what is happening at the Sub-committee on Dáil Reform, that early next week work can begin on identifying how many committees will be established, and their nature, so that we can organise ourselves in such a way that when the Dáil does come back we can start working effectively, efficiently and purposefully, and that debate takes place not for its own sake but with proper Ministers who are accountable to the House and who may be appointed this evening following the vote. That is extremely important. There is a great deal of work to be done next week to make sure that this Dáil and the Oireachtas are organised properly and effectively so that we can get down to business and get work done through the committee system as well as the plenary system.
The Taoiseach may also indicate a realignment of Departments in his speech, which is equally important for the committees that will be established to monitor and hold the Departments to account. That also has an impact on how the Opposition works. On that basis, we will not oppose the reconvening of the Dáil on Tuesday week, but we do think a lot of work needs to be done next week to get the Parliament in working order, which it is not at the moment.
The last thing this Dáil needs, and the last thing the public would tolerate, is either the reality or the perception that the Dáil is not going to function for another week. It is absolutely imperative that the Taoiseach clarify that in the course of the period intervening to the proposed resumption date the Committee on Housing and Homelessness appointed by this Thirty-second Dáil will continue its work and the Committee on Dáil Reform will be ready to report on its recommendations on the commencement of the new Dáil session as of next Tuesday week. It is absolutely imperative that the Taoiseach confirm this evening that he will use the intervening time to ensure that not only the Dáil but also the Seanad - both Houses of the Oireachtas - are ready to get up and running and function in an appropriate and businesslike way as of that date. I am not a fan at all of the fact that the Taoiseach of the day has the power to appoint 11 Members of the Seanad, but it will not function until that is done. Will the Taoiseach confirm to the House this evening that he will use the intervening period to proceed with that and that there will be no impediment to the Seanad's commencing its business as and of that date, or preferably earlier?
In response to the points raised by Deputies Martin and Ó Caoláin, the intervening period will be used for that purpose. I have already asked that the decision be made in respect of the number of Oireachtas committees that we will have. The Ceann Comhairle has a specific responsibility in chairing the Sub-committee on Dáil Reform. I agree with the sentiments expressed by Deputies Martin and Ó Caoláin that when the Houses come back they should be able to work immediately and efficiently in the interests of our people.