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Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Continued)

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy] However, the Technical Group must combine and jointly fund one person. We do not get a desk, a telephone, an office or a computer. We must employ an accountant and set ourselves up as an employer. This is an affront to how a democracy should run. Given that the Technical Group comprises one third of the Opposition, the Government could be accused of trying to reduce its impact by designing the scheme in such a fashion. This is wrong and should be changed. While I believe some of this expenditure is excessive, the work certainly cannot be done without a secretariat of some sort. I believe it is wrong to present this Bill on the last day of the term in such a fragmented way and in the absence of talking about overall reform. There are huge changes and savings to be made, which would show some leadership from this Oireachtas.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan Bhíos ag smaoineamh ar chéad lá na Dála seo agus an difríocht idir an lá sin agus an bhliain go leith a bhíos sa Dáil roimhe sin. I was thinking about the difference between the first day of the present Dáil on 11 March 2011 and my experience of the previous Dáil, which had a jaded air about it and a sense that it was running out of steam, energy and vision. I listened to the new Taoiseach that morning and there was no doubt but that there was an expectation that this would be a new era. The energy and enthusiasm in that speech was obvious and the saying that sprang to mind certainly was that this was a person who was up for it. There was a sense that things would be different, the new broom would sweep things clean and what had marked the previous years - namely, the overspending, extravagance, greed, self-interest and recklessness - all would be over. Moreover, there was a sense that there would be an end to those institutions, quangos and practices that had contributed to all that waste, that there would be an end to inappropriate spending and overlapping and that all of these issues would be tackled head-on. Perhaps I was naive but I thought that was what would happen. One year and nine months later, one might ask what progress had been made in making the Oireachtas efficient or making it really engaged with the important issues that concern Irish society. One also might ask what has been done to make the Irish citizen proud of this institution in order that Irish citizens now are more confident the men and women they elected are doing the work for which they were elected. In addition, one could ask whether the question of the abuse and misuse of power is being addressed. Finally, one could ask whether the best use is being made of the available resources. As life undoubtedly is much more challenging at present on foot of the downturn and the recession, it is of even greater importance that Members get their priorities right and that they eliminate waste and unnecessary spending.

Turning to the subject being debated in the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, this sum of €324 million, to be used over the next three years in the performance of the functions of the Oireachtas, is a highly significant amount. Consequently, it is vital that it be spent in a fair way that ensures efficient use of that resource. Part of this allocation is for the staff in the Oireachtas and while not everyone is covered in this particular provision, I wish to acknowledge the hard work, commitment and unfailing courtesy from all the staff within these Houses, including the staff engaged in catering, the Library and Research Service, the stationary office, cleaning, maintenance, printing, communications, gardening, the Bills Office and the ushers. Members probably do not recognise them enough but I will take this moment to acknowledge it. Moreover, I believe salaries must be appropriate to that work and to people's hours of work. I always have a difficulty when people are obliged to work overtime to make their salary livable on and perhaps basic rates need to be considered in that regard.

I acknowledge the amount under debate is less than the €360 million provided for the previous three years and less than the €393 million provided in the three-year period before that. Obviously, we are heading in the right direction. When the Minister of State introduced the Bill to the Seanad, he stated "funds are only designated to essential expenditure" because "the Oireachtas must show the public that it is ready, able and willing to participate in the general reduction of administrative costs". Part of this legislation is progressive - namely, the manner in which the accounts will be presented and the receipts to be retained by the Commission and offset against Exchequer allocation. Consequently, it will be accounted for and it is hoped this will lead to greater efficiencies in providing the services.

Debate adjourned.

  Sitting suspended at 12.45 p.m. and resumed at 1.15 p.m.

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