Dáil debates

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

2:45 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The House has agreed that, for the duration of the Covid-19 emergency only, the rapporteur's report of the Order of Business shall not be read out but shall be taken as read. There are three proposals to put to the House in accordance with that recommendation. Is the proposal for dealing with today's business agreed to?

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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It is not agreed. I very rarely, if ever, miss a Business Committee meeting but I feel like saying that while the cat is away, the mice will play. Questions on Promised Legislation has disappeared from the normal schedule where we might, for example, ask the Taoiseach when the legislation to implement the Duffy-Cahill report will be brought forward. The Government, having knocked the smaller parties down the pecking order in an effort to gag them at the end of the summer recess, has now given itself extra time above and beyond the move to gag the smaller parties. It wants to have its cake and eat it and to dominate the debate in here completely. It is absolutely unbelievable.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I thank the Deputy.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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The neck is extraordinary. Also, there was an agreement at the Business Committee two meetings ago to have a debate on the economic situation this week, particularly given the Government's plans to axe the pandemic unemployment payments, PUP, the week after that. On multiple grounds, therefore, I object to the Order of Business.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Before we go any further, we can only have one contribution from each group. We cannot have multiple speakers. Does the Taoiseach wish to speak?

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I was only going to suggest that the eloquence of the Deputy proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that it is impossible to gag him.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is a well-established fact.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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The Taoiseach might get away with that answer but he will not get away with it from me because he is trying to do the same thing to the Independents. It is not welcomed by us to think that he is trying to gag us at this time. What he, his Chief Whip and others have tried to do in recent weeks is to silence us. Not only is he putting us at the end of the pecking order; he would like to have us outside the door completely if he was able to do that.

Thanks to the electorate, so far the Taoiseach has not been able to do that.

I know the Ceann Comhairle will respect very much the sincerity of my next request. When will we have an opportunity to try to put our shoulders to the wheel in a sensible and meaningful way to support the airline industry, travel agents, the airports and that whole sector? They are suffering so much.

2:55 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is not relevant to the business before us now.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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It is relevant to the Order of Business because I want to know when such an opportunity will be given to the House.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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We can have only one speaker from each group.

Photo of Jack ChambersJack Chambers (Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I take Deputy Boyd Barrett's point. At the meeting of the Business Committee, there was a full explanation as to why Questions on Promised Legislation were not included this week. They will be included next week. There have been meetings on the legislative programme, which is being prepared, yesterday and today and there is to be another tomorrow and we hope to bring it to the Cabinet next Tuesday in order that the Deputy can ask questions on promised legislation. The intention is to have a relevant publication so there can be a meaningful 30-minute slot. That will absolutely be in place as normal from next week.

On the question on the economy, the Deputy's concern was shared by the Government side and, in fairness, by all Deputies across the House. We tried to facilitate a full and wholesome debate on health, including the four pillars of healthcare - Covid and health, disability services, public healthcare, mental health services and older people's services. The plan is to have a proper debate on the economy next week instead of just trying to fit a debate on the economy into a small slot on health this week. The objective is to have a meaningful debate next week. That was agreed fully by all members of the Business Committee. It will be on the schedule for next week.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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I am aware a meeting of the Business Committee is scheduled for this evening. I asked at a Business Committee meeting last week about our not being allowed to ask about promised legislation. I thought we were getting that and I supposed I was not alert enough to what happened Is there any chance that we can discuss promised legislation tomorrow and Thursday? We are to have a Business Committee meeting this evening. This is cutting out Deputies of all parties and intentions.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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All right-----

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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I am sorry but is the Taoiseach going to answer my question on the airlines and the travel agents, or is he going to ignore that section of society?

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am going to let him answer if the Deputy will give him a chance.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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The Government did not respond to the point on additional time, above and beyond that associated with the manipulation of the speaking order executed at the end of summer term.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is wandering away. We are dealing with the proposed business, not anything else.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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That is the proposed business. There is additional time for the Government, above and beyond that associated with the cynical manipulation already rammed through.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Quite clearly, what happened in the summer was that many backbenchers of other parties wanted to have their say as well and wanted their opportunity.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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The Government-----

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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No. They are backbenchers elected by the people, just as Deputy Boyd Barrett is elected-----

(Interruptions).

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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If Deputy Boyd Barrett is going to ask the Taoiseach a question, he should be let answer it.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I am just wondering if they are from the same party-----

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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What the Deputy is asserting is that he has rights that are superior to those of other Deputies in this House.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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No, I am not.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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He always is. Essentially that is his argument.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I am saying we should keep to the order that has been there since the 1920s.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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We believe there should be proportionality and plenty of time for every Deputy. I am a great believer in parliamentary democracy and I believe people of all parties and none should have an opportunity to speak and articulate their views.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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We always had that time. Always.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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No, actually-----

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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We did.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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In the previous Dáil, that did not happen.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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It did.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Many Deputies were excluded in the previous Dáil in practical terms. They just did not get the opportunities.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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And they did not turn up.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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They did not get the opportunities; that is what happened.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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They had not even turned up.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Groups with far fewer Deputies in the House got much more time-----

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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No.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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What we need is a bit of balance; that is all. As far as I am concerned-----

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Wait and see the turnout from the Government parties at committees-----

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I did not interrupt the Deputy. This is a plenary session, and people felt they were excluded. They made representations to the various parties. All parties, in negotiating future orders for this Dáil, arrived at conclusions, agreements and so on. I was not at the meeting of the Business Committee; I do not attend its meetings. My understanding is that an agreement was reached at a meeting of the committee on the sittings for last week, this week and next week, and that is the way it should be.

The Government is obviously concerned about every sector that has been affected by Covid-19, not least the aviation sector.

It is in a challenging situation, as are the hospitality and some other key sectors on which Covid-19 has had a devastating impact. I have no difficulty in working with or taking certain ideas from Deputies on how we collectively try to help industries that are in challenging circumstances because of the devastating impact of Covid on normal economic activity.

3:05 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Can we now agree on the taking of business as outlined for today?

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Not agreed.

Question put: : "That the proposal for dealing with Tuesday's sitting be agreed to."

The Dáil divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 19; Staon, 0.


Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jack Chambers and Mary Butler; Níl, Deputies Joan Collins and Richard Boyd Barrett.

Question declared carried.

3:15 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is the proposal for dealing with Wednesday's business agreed to?

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Not agreed.

Question, "That the proposal for dealing with Wednesday's business be agreed" put and declared carried.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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Is the proposal for dealing with Thursday's business agreed to?

Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Not agreed.

We object to the sitting on Thursday moving back to the Convention Centre. It undermines the credibility of the House that we cannot come up with a solution that allows us to do our business here. As parents send their children on school buses and people go back to work in meat factories and other settings, the suggestion that we cannot come up with a working proposal that protects public health but allows us to do our business in this place is absolutely ludicrous. Today, the Government produced guidelines that will allow more people to sit in the Dáil bar than can sit in the Dáil Chamber. It is a crazy situation that needs to end and I call on the Business Committee to reconvene and come up with a workable solution that allows us to do our business in this House.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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Well said.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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I had something else to raise but again this is hypocrisy from Sinn Féin. I proposed at the Business Committee meeting last Thursday, which the Ceann Comhairle chaired, that we would sit here every day and I got no seconder from Sinn Féin so this is grandstanding in the extreme. I was told by the party's representative that it might support me the next day. As the Ceann Comhairle knows, I have proposed at every Business Committee meeting that we do not sit in the Convention Centre because of the cost and all of the reasons outlined by Deputy Carthy. This is brass hypocrisy. Sinn Féin did not support it last week. It is shocking. I object to the business today and I ask again whether questions on promised legislation will be discussed at the meeting of the Business Committee this evening. Perhaps this evening Sinn Féin will support me when I ask that we move back here full time. I hope I will get another chance to do so at the meeting of the Business Committee.

Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Deputy McGrath is just making things up.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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I am not making stuff up.

Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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He is.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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They are facts.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Please, Members.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Protecting public health is a priority but we have to face the fact there is a shocking contradiction. I raised this at the Covid committee so I am not grandstanding. We are spending approximately 50 times more on ensuring adherence to public health guidelines per Deputy than we are spending per pupil in school. That is shocking. The money given to schools to ensure physical distancing is approximately 50 times less per pupil than the amount of money we are spending on ensuring adherence to the public health guidelines in the Dáil. That will not fly with people. We have to address it without compromising public health. We have to focus on finding a solution to this.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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For the information of Members generally, on the day of the summer recess, the Business Committee convened a special meeting that went on for a number of hours, where we heard submissions from a variety of experts in this particular field. It was open to any group to propose that we ignore the advice we were being given and return here. In fairness, with the exception of Deputy Mattie McGrath-----

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Thank you.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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-----who has consistently been of the view that we should be here all the time, everybody else saw merit in the expert advice we were being given. If we need to go back and get more expert advice in light of the points that have been made, I for one am certainly very willing to do that.

Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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A Cheann Comhairle-----

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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What?

Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Can I make a point, please?

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Normally Deputies make just one point but the Deputy should proceed.

Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Nobody is suggesting that we ignore the public health advice. As has been the case with the pubs today, for example, the public health advice can be reflective of what is a requirement. In our case, this House is required to meet in this place. In my view, public opinion demands it. This has been Sinn Féin's consistent position. I hope it can be clarified to the House that when the suggestion was made that the Dáil would vote in the manner in which we have just voted on a reduced basis, something that Sinn Féin proposes, Deputy Mattie McGrath was one of those who refused to give the imprimatur of his group to adhere to it.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Lies.

Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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That is factually the position that would allow us to sit here.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Total lies.

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal, Sinn Fein)
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The Deputy is a charlatan.

Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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What I suggest is that the Business Committee meet this evening to find a way, in line with public health advice, that we can do our business in this House.

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Danny Healy-RaeDanny Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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Sinn Féin voted against the publicans last Thursday.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I remind Deputies that the public is watching this. Can we behave with a little bit of decorum and respect and let us try to sort out this problem-----

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Let us have the truth.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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There is most definitely a problem. Does the Taoiseach or Chief Whip wish to make a comment on this?

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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This is not a Government matter in the sense that it is a matter for the Oireachtas. The Ceann Comhairle has put it very clearly. He said there was a special meeting at the end of July. No one suggested or proposed to the Ceann Comhairle, bar one Deputy, Deputy Mattie McGrath, that we ignore or go against advice. It seems the situation has to do with voting. The Government is very open to whatever the Oireachtas agrees to consider. It does not serve the Oireachtas very well to be going for the cheap soundbites all the time and comparing this to the Dáil bar and all this type of nonsense.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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The Dáil bar is closed.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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It has been closed for a long time. It is a great line but it does not help us deal with the situation. It is a great old line but that is about it. It is a nice line to shout out but it does not advance the argument.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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It is the truth.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The issue seems to be whether we can organise votes here that everybody will observe. I am not an expert on this and I was not a part of the public health expert advice or the secretariat to the Oireachtas with regard to voting. It seems that voting is the major challenge to the authorities in the House with regard to organising it safely within public health guidelines. We are all agreed it is far more amenable for us to be here and it is more efficient timewise to be in this Chamber rather than having to go down to the Convention Centre. That seems to be the general view that most Deputies have. Certainly the Government is open and we will be constructive in working with the Oireachtas. The Business Committee met again last week. It seems that every second decision of the Business Committee is now being challenged, even though everyone seems to have been at the meetings. Notwithstanding everyone agreeing with a particular position, within 24 or 48 hours it is disagreed with. We will work with the Ceann Comhairle.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Thank you.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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We will work with other parties to facilitate an agreeable outcome.

Duncan Smith (Dublin Fingal, Labour)
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I make an official request of the Ceann Comhairle that he call a special meeting of the Business Committee within seven days. Deputy Carthy said it would meet tonight but all groups need a few days to put their proposals forward. There is no point in having a shortened version of the meeting we had at the end of July. Each group should have a few days to put forward proposals to return to this House. I ask the Ceann Comhairle to call this meeting within a week to discuss this issue on its own.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is a very reasonable proposal and that is what I will do if Members are agreeable.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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We have a meeting tonight and I hope we can at least discuss it then. We will wait for the proposals certainly but, for the record of the House, I have been making proposals at each meeting and the Sinn Féin Whip was there the last day and he did not support me. He said he might support me. That is a fact and the records are there to prove it. Hypocrisy goes on.

Photo of Pádraig Mac LochlainnPádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal, Sinn Fein)
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Deputy McGrath is a political bluffer and everyone knows it.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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The Deputy should ask his Whip.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Deputies to calm themselves.

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent)
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Everybody wants to be back here in this House but I do not see the point in having another special meeting. We had a meeting before the recess when all of the experts were in. They basically said that maintaining a 2 m distance cannot be done in this House. We cannot have everybody in this House to vote. That is the reality of the situation. I do not see that changing through having a special meeting next week but if it does, we will participate in it. Unless we can go down to 1 m distancing, there will not be full meetings here, unfortunately, and we will have to continue to go to the Convention Centre. That is the reality and it needs to be put out there. That is the position. What is the point in having another meeting to discuss that unless a decision will be made that we go down to 1 m.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Duncan Smith had the idea that groups may have new proposals to put. If they do, we will consider them.

Question put: "That the proposal for dealing with Thursday's business be agreed to."

The Dáil divided: Tá, 28; Níl, 17; Staon, 0.


Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jack Chambers and Mary Butler; Níl, Deputies Matt Carthy and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.

Question declared carried.