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Business of Dáil (Continued)

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 938 No. 1

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Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh There was an opportunity. We met yesterday afternoon in the Business Committee, and every Whip from every party had the opportunity to state at that stage that the arrangement was not suitable. I have no problem with the time being extended. I was among those who argued it should be longer. There is no problem suspending the debate and continuing it thereafter. I agree that every Deputy in the House should be allowed time to speak, but we do not all have access to Ministers in the same way to those Deputies of whose party the Ministers are members. In this instance, the Deputies who have raised concerns about the arrangement did not raise those concerns at the meeting, which was the appropriate place. However, I do not have a problem with reflecting the arrangement we had decided for the statements on the executive order in the United States. There is no problem, but that impacts on the opportunity made available tomorrow for other Deputies other than party spokespersons to ask questions. If some of that time is taken away, it will impact on the ability of other Deputies to ask questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We can easily add an additional half hour which will allow for a second round from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil if that suits people.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Absolutely.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I was the Fine Gael representative at the Business Committee yesterday, and it probably was remiss of me not to be conscious of my own backbenchers, so I apologise. Could we perhaps revert to what we had previously agreed and add the second round in afterwards, if that would be-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Yes.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin There is a wider point. There is validity to what Deputies O'Dowd and Curran have said. Quite a number of Deputies for quite a long time have articulated that a d'Hondt mechanism is not in place for speaking times. I think I have raised this with the reform committee. My understanding was that the committee was meant to deal with this. I want to be reasonable about it, representing the 44 Deputies-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath And counting.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----on our side of the House.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Mattie's ready.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It is a very serious point. What tends to happen is that in most of the set piece debates, be it on the European Council or any other matter, there might be five or six speakers, with ten or 15 minutes allocated to each, but the bulk of backbenchers in the larger parties are simply not getting opportunities to speak on important issues. The Dáil reform committee needs to deal with this. The system does not have to be strictly d'Hondt. I am not in the business of shutting down smaller parties or anything like that.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed Just gobbling them up.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin By any yardstick, what has been happening is not fair. There is not a fair allocation of time, and quite a large number of Deputies are being disenfranchised as a result, as are the people they represent. This is no one's intention. We need to change it, and there is a way of doing so, but political will across the House is needed to make sure that can become a reality. I cannot do everything, but the Dáil reform committee should get down to work and get it done.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl You are very good. The Dáil reform committee did have regard-----

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Yes. That is the point.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl -----to the points Deputy Martin has raised. It did so by extending the rounds for these statements to provide for an extra opportunity for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. I do not ever remember an occasion here on which all backbenchers in all parties had an opportunity to contribute on all matters. The problem with reform is that we can be great enthusiasts for it but sometimes when it begins to happen, we can be very nostalgic for how things were in the past.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger It would seem that the larger parties in the Dáil are trying to unravel, on a very ad hoc basis, agreed Dáil reform that was argued and debated over a period of months. I do not mind listening to the issue of a second bite of the cherry, but what is happening is that, on an ad hoc basis, the larger parties are trying to get more and more speaking rights.

Deputy Kate O'Connell: Information on Kate O'Connell Zoom on Kate O'Connell There are more of us.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger For years smaller parties and Independents were squashed, and not one of the Deputies on the backbenches cared when members of smaller parties, who are elected on an equal basis to every single one of them, did not get a fair say in the Dáil.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan Since when do two wrongs make a right?

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger The problem is that the two large parties are responsible for the health crisis and now their members will have more chances to speak on what they have caused for the past decade or so. The backbenchers generally have no interest in speaking in the Dáil, and it is quite amazing that they are now suddenly giving out.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy should not make that accusation against Members.


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