Friday, 16 October 2020
Gnó an tSeanaid - Business of Seanad
I draw Members' attention to a change in the procedure for divisions. At the meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges during the week I outlined that there has been a slippage, as we all know, in the observance of social distancing in the Chamber and outside the Chamber. It was agreed by the groups and the Whips that when a division is called all Members in the Chamber will remain in their seats and not move around the Chamber, and that as Members enter the Chamber they would take a seat automatically. Senators will note there are 15 seats on the outside. Those seats should be taken by Members when they come into the Chamber. There are also 21 seats in the front and there are other seats available in the Gallery. In the event of more than 45 Members coming into the Chamber for a division, the surplus will be asked to leave, but the doors will not be locked. A roll-call vote will then be taken and the Senators on the outside will be asked to leave to allow the Senators outside the Chamber to come in to record their vote.
I note people are wearing masks and I welcome that but the social distancing rules apply to everybody equally.We have seen comments in the newspapers about what happened on budget day, and also comments by judges on what is happening in the courts and on officers of the courts as well. It is very difficult to keep observing the rules, but we must observe the rules. Let us be honest, the reality is there are 60 Members of the Seanad, and the chances that none of us will get Covid-19 are fairly limited. The chances are very low that one Member will not get Covid-19. The concern all Members have is the protection of their families, their communities and themselves. I do not want them to leave here and bring it home to their families and for somebody to get sick from this Chamber. There will be a lot of divisions today. I urge Members to observe the agreement that we came to at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges that we would observe social distancing for voting and outside this Chamber as well. I ask the Leader to outline the Order of Business.