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Ceisteanna — Questions (Resumed) - Parliamentary Reform

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 760 No. 3

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 2.  Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin  asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny  if the review of changes to procedures in Dáil Éireann promised in July 2011 has taken place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6196/12]

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The programme for Government sets out an ambitious agenda of Dáil reform, which will continue to be implemented over the lifetime of the Government. In July 2011, after just four months in office, the Government introduced a package of reforms which included: Topical Issue debates; special sittings on the first Friday of a month; time limits for the Order of Business; streamlining the system of Taoiseach’s Questions; a procedure to allow Deputies to raise issues regarding replies to parliamentary questions with the Ceann Comhairle; Standing Order 32 requests no longer being read out unless they are granted by the Ceann Comhairle; an additional Leaders’ Questions session taken by the Tánaiste on Thursdays; and the Taoiseach being obliged to brief the Oireachtas prior to attending European Council meetings. This was just the first phase of Dáil reform and it is the Government’s intention to follow it with additional reforms in the future.

My office is monitoring the day-to-day working of Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann and the Oireachtas committees, including the impact of the reforms we have already introduced. This ongoing review, along with our programme for Government commitments, will be the basis for further reform in this area.

[631]Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I take issue with two elements of the Minister of State’s reply. To describe the programme of reform as ambitious is a complete exaggeration. It is anything but ambitious and I am sure the Minister of State will agree. It is very superficial and shallow parliamentary reform that bears no relationship to the commitments given to the people of comprehensive parliamentary and political reform prior to the general election. The Minister of State promised that there would be a review — not monitoring, ongoing review or any such clever language — to be followed by an evaluation of the changes that have taken place so far. He promised that there would be consultations with other parties in the House giving us a chance to make commentary on them. The matter of topical issues was one floated by the previous Government. I put it to the Minister of State that the Friday sittings are a sham.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae Farcical Friday.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Government has not accepted too many Bills from the Opposition. Attendance has been very poor from the Government side. Indeed the quorum has to be provided by the Opposition, which is unprecedented. It was always the case that the Government side needed to provide a quorum. The only reason the Government introduced that was to allow its Members to be down in their constituencies on that Friday. Whenever the Friday sittings take place Government Deputies are down the country while the Opposition Deputies proposing the legislation are up here. That is too cynical by half and in many ways it contributes to the notion that the Friday sitting, unfortunately from the Government perspective, has——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Can we have a question please?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin ——been about manipulation of the message emanating from here that somehow we are sitting for longer days and that we are sitting longer than previous Dáileanna. That is all it is about. In fairness, the Opposition has stood up to the plate and the various Opposition parties have introduced legislation. Our party is very anxious to revisit this matter to ensure that if there is a Friday sitting once a month, it should be the same as any other sitting on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

When will the second phase of reform commence? When will the Minister of State bring proposals to other political parties on that? The replies to topical issues are supposed to be given by the Minister or Minister of State from the Department responsible for the issue raised. The Government is already failing in that commitment. Recently the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, responded to a topical issue on fraud prevention even though she has no connection with that topic. In the same week the Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, Deputy Creighton, responded to a topical issue on NAMA. Does the Minister of State accept that is not in accordance with what he outlined?

The Taoiseach now spends less time dealing with Taoiseach’s Questions than his predecessors — he now answers such questions once a week as opposed to twice a week. In many areas under his portfolio we are prevented from asking questions because they relate to the particular Cabinet committee on economic affairs and the invocation of Cabinet confidentiality precludes us from asking questions on economic stewardship by the Taoiseach regarding the Cabinet.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I will first answer the Deputy’s last question about the Taoiseach spending less time in the Chamber. There is more substance out of this Taoiseach in the time he is here than from any of his Fianna Fáil predecessors who had that role.

A Deputy: That is some achievement.

[632]Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe What reforms did the Government introduce when Deputy Martin was at the Cabinet table?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We introduced Leaders’ Questions.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe We started taking Leaders’ Questions on a Thursday. Deputy Martin sat at the Cabinet table for almost 15 years and Dáil reform never worried him.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Not true.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The Deputy never referred to the number of sitting days.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins Can the Minister of State account for his own actions?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath He cannot.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe We have increased the number of sitting days by 44%, which is positive. In addition, we have shortened the summer holidays. I was elected to the House first in 2002 and I got July, August and September off.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Deputy Kehoe deserved it.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins He will be off next summer like the rest of us.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Now we finish on the last week in July and we come back in during the second week in September.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Deputy Kehoe should take the next four years off.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins That is not true.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe That is true.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Please reply through the Chair.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe It is open to everyone to put in a Private Members’ Bill for the Friday sittings. I am unsure whether the Deputy is aware of this. It is taken by lottery at that stage. Deputy Collins maintains no one from the Government side has had a Private Members’ Bill.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins I did not say that.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The Deputy said it.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins No, I did not.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe It is taken as a lottery.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Through the Chair, please.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe It is taken as a lottery.

(Interruptions).

[633]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett This is not a shouting match.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin There is no one from the Government side.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I assure the Deputy that I am here every Friday morning and I have never seen Deputy Martin turn up.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins Deputy Kehoe is wrong there.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin On a point of order, I introduced legislation to the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Would you please speak through the Chair?

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Perhaps Deputy Martin was here on one occasion.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett This is a disgrace.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin On a point or order, will Deputy Kehoe correct the record? He has just misled the House.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin On a point or order, Deputy Kehoe has just misled the House. Please correct the record. He has misled the House.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Deputy Martin might have been here on one occasion.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin No. The Deputy should be gracious and correct the record. He made an error.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Deputy Martin might have been here on one occasion.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin No. I have been here on both occasions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Minister, could I ask you to reply to the question through the Chair please?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I have been here on more than one occasion.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe He made a fair few errors himself when he was in government and he never corrected the record.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Please ignore the side remarks and reply to the question.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I assure Deputies that the Government has been most proactive when it comes to Dáil reform. I have referred to Topical Issues and sittings on a Friday. The Order of Business has been time limited. The Taoiseach is getting through more questions than any of his predecessors.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin No, we are not.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Deputies can go to the Ceann Comhairle if they are unhappy with any reply from a line Minister. We got rid of the Standing Order 32 arrangements because they were a waste of time. There is additional time for Leaders’ Questions on a Thursday morning. [634] Statements on European Council meetings are now held prior to the Taoiseach going to the meetings. I intend to introduce more reforms in the coming months.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins Such as?

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe They will be outlined. As Deputy Collins is aware, his party Whip is involved in and attends the Dáil reform meetings we hold. I have informed him that we will bring in more reforms between now and the summer. There will be more reforms and I trust Deputies will look forward to these. We have introduced more reforms than any previous Government and I assure Deputies there is more to come.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh While I welcome many of the changes brought about, will the Chief Whip ensure that they are reviewed and that the Whips’ meetings will be used to re-examine them? I acknowledge that the Chief Whip is open to reconsideration. How does the Chief Whip intend to encourage new Deputies? It is more than one year since the last election and since many of the first-time Deputies attended the Chamber for the first time. Many of them were unaware of the procedures and how the Parliament worked. Some of them might have interesting proposals one year on. How can we encourage new Deputies on all sides of the House to submit their proposals rather than simply being party political? I work with my party and we have our view but there are many first-time Deputies and they might have ideas which those of us who have been here for several sessions had not thought of. Is the Chief Whip contemplating Dáil reform proposals or any other proposals to be put to the Dáil reform committee and then passed by the end of the summer session?

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Deputy Ó Snodaigh will recall that before we introduced any reforms, we held a debate and statements in the House on Dáil reform. Perhaps the holding of statements on Dáil reform is something we can discuss at the Whips meeting since people have settled in for one year. They are familiar with the procedures of the House and how they work. They may have other ideas as well. It is okay to raise these matters at a party political meeting but it is far better to come here and to give people the opportunity to speak and outline some of the changes or reforms they wish to bring forward. This is something we can consider at a Whips’ meeting in future.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh acknowledged the work and the reforms carried out here in the past 12 months. There is no doubt that this is not a perfect Chamber. However, I put it to Deputies to show me a perfect chamber in any country. Deputies might wish to bring forward changes. This is about trying to make it as perfect as possible. We cannot make it 100% perfect, or a place where everyone is happy. However, we hope to reach a point where the majority of people are happy. I assure Deputies that I am open to any proposals to change the way we work and to change the procedures in the House. If anyone has proposals I can take them on board and we can discuss them and then bring them forward. I acknowledge the work and ideas brought forward by the Ceann Comhairle on Dáil reform.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins It is not correct to state that there has been Dáil reform when the Taoiseach is less available to answer questions in the House, no matter what way the Government wishes to dress it up or spin it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett This is Question Time. Put a question.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins The people know the facts. The fact is he is less available to answer questions in the Chamber as a result of what Deputy Kehoe describes as Dáil reform.

[635]Will the Chief Whip’s proposals include changes to Friday sittings? The Chief Whip is ticking the box and describing Friday as a sitting day but it is only a three hour sitting with a Second Stage debate on Opposition or Government backbench Bills. Will the proposals on Friday sittings include the full menu of a full Dáil sitting day? Will it include Leaders’ Questions, votes, the Order of Business, Topical Issues, questions to a Minister and committee sittings? Will there be the full array of activities that occur during a full parliamentary day? The Chief Whip knows in his heart that Fridays are a complete sham. People do not buy into the notion of the Dáil sitting for three hours on a Friday when nothing can be voted on. They see it for what it is. The Chief Whip might as well be honest about it. Other Government Members have put up their hands and accepted that they got things wrong. There is nothing wrong with saying one got something wrong.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Can we have a question, please?

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins The Chief Whip has tried this formula for Friday sittings. Will he not acknowledge that it is a sham and opt for a full sitting with a full complement of activities, including those of the Seanad?

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Deputy Collins should note that I am here on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I do not see Deputy Collins here during the week at all times.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins What does that have to do with it?

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The Friday sittings are an opportunity for backbench Deputies to bring Private Members’ business to the Dáil. This was something I was asked for and something we implemented. It was asked for by the Deputy’s party Whip.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins We asked for a sitting day.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Deputy Collins referred to the Taoiseach not being available.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I allowed Deputy Collins to talk. Perhaps he would give me the opportunity to reply. Deputy Collins referred to the Taoiseach being less available. He is here on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as was the previous Taoiseach.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins There is no Questions to the Taoiseach on a Thursday.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe There is more accountability now than ever before because there is Leaders’ Questions on a Thursday. I do not recall Leaders’ Questions on a Thursday previously. At times, the Order of Business continued for two hours.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That was because of the behaviour of some of Deputy Kehoe’s colleagues.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Through the Chair, please.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe It was because the person sitting where I am now would not answer the questions being asked by the then Opposition. At least we attend now and there is some coherence. People know exactly what takes place on a Thursday morning. They can question the Tánaiste. If the Tánaiste is not here, the next most senior Minister will be here. This takes place every Thursday morning. It does not add up to suggest the Government is less account[636]able than the last; we are not. We use the Chamber for its proper purpose. We do not abuse it. This is what introducing reform is all about. It is about making the Chamber work for everyone.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins What about Fridays?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I have experience of putting forward a Private Members’ Bill and I thank the Bills Office for it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I appreciate that but please stick to putting a question.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It is fine that they attend but it is not reform because while the Minister attends he rejects every proposal. Perhaps he gives us a lesson for not engaging with him. I know the Chief Whip was abroad on Government duty on St. Patrick’s day and I commend him on that, but is he aware that when he was away the Deputy Government Whip did not bother to turn up? We had a Private Members’ debate and there was nobody on the Government side——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy should resume his seat. That has nothing to do with the question.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Of course it has. The question is about Dáil reform. We had come into this Chamber——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy should resume his seat please.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The Ceann Comhairle does not know what I am talking about. He was not here that evening. Somebody else was in the Chair.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Excuse me, please resume your seat.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath No, this has to do with Dáil reform. There was nobody at all on the Government side.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Did the Deputy hear me?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath This was a Private Members’ debate and there was nobody at all on the Government side of the House. I know the Chief Whip was away, but the Deputy Government Whip should have been around somewhere.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I called on the Deputy for a supplementary question in respect of the question tabled by Deputy Micheál Martin and the Deputy is asking about something that is totally irrelevant.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath No, it is not. It is about Dáil reform. Surely to God it is incumbent on the Government to have a quorum in the House and to have a Minister available to answer on an important issue.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett If the Deputy has a problem, he should bring it up with the Whips or he should complain to my office and I will deal with it.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins I wrote to the Ceann Comhairle’s office already and I got no reply.

[637]Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I have complained to the Ceann Comhairle’s office on a different issue.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy did not complain to my office on that issue.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath No, on a different issue, and I have not withdrawn that complaint. It was to do with the Minister of State, Deputy McGinley.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Excuse me, I dealt with the Deputy’s correspondence. The Deputy should please resume his seat.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It has not been sorted out. I got no apology. It is tokenism, at the best.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I ask the Deputy to please resume his seat.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The Chair invited this, because I have complained to his office.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Does Deputy Martin have a supplementary question?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I have a supplementary question based on the original reply. In his reply relating to the Friday sittings, the Chief Whip has indicated there is ongoing review and that the situation is being monitored. Will he agree that the quorum for a Friday sitting should be made up from both the Government and Opposition sides?

On Taoiseach’s questions and the Order of Business, the reform that was introduced removed the Taoiseach’s obligation to answer Taoiseach’s questions on a Wednesday. Prior to this, in the previous Dáil, the Taoiseach would always answer questions on issues relating to his Department on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. However, that provision has been deftly slipped out, with the result that the Taoiseach only has to come in once a week. Will the Whip agree to reconsider that and to reinstate Taoiseach’s questions on a Wednesday in order to ensure better accountability?

Time limits have been set on the Order of Business. These limits mean, although Members did not expect this, that when a vote takes place, it can summarily eliminate the Order of Business on that day, the Wednesday or Thursday. These changes were not intended initially in the reform and it would be correct if reforms in this regard could take place immediately. Will the Chief Whip comment on this?

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe On the Friday sittings, the quorum is not made up by any one party. When Members come in on Friday mornings, as I have done on occasion, there could be five people on the Opposition side and five on the Government side. The quorum is ten.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath There could be nobody on the Government side, as happened before.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy should refrain from shouting across the floor and should allow the Chief Whip to reply.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe There could be five Members from the Opposition and there could be five Members from the Government side and the Dáil business will start. It is not up to any particular party to ensure a quorum. It is up to whoever proposes the motion to ensure there are ten Members present. However, I assure the Deputy, that I have seen, on occasion——

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That is not my point.

[638]Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe What is the Deputy’s point?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Through the Chair please. I ask the Deputy to allow the Chief Whip to answer the questions. I will allow the Deputy to put a further supplementary question then.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe It is up to the person bringing forward the motion to ensure there is a quorum of ten Members. On occasion, I have seen a Member of the Opposition bring forward a motion when there were five Members of the Opposition in the Chamber and over five Members on the Government side and the business has continued. Therefore, it is wrong to say that business does not continue just because the person responsible to ensure the quorum is present does not have a quorum on his or her side.

On the issue of Taoiseach’s questions, in the previous Dáil, these questions were allocated 45 minutes on one day and 30 minutes on the following day. Currently, the Taoiseach answers questions for one hour, 15 minutes less per week than previously. However, he makes up that time by coming in for statements on the European Council. This never happened previously and is a positive step forward. As I said to Deputy Collins, we now have Leaders’ Questions on a Thursday also.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Chief Whip is saying that basically it is up to the person bringing forward legislation or a motion, or his or her party, to provide a quorum. My question is based on this. I suggest that is not correct and that it should be up to both sides of the House to provide a quorum. What could happen otherwise is that a party could come in some Friday morning and if there was nobody on the Government side and some smart alec wanted to call a quorum, it would be up to the Opposition side to produce the ten people. The reason for allowing this is that the Government side wants to abscond and to allow Deputies be in their constituencies. We all know that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Can we have the Deputy’s question?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The rationale behind placing the obligation, via the Standing Order, on the Opposition to provide the quorum was so that Government Deputies would not have to attend during the Friday sitting. Is that not the case? I am asking the Chief Whip to change that.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe That is not the case. I assure Deputy Martin that every morning of Friday sittings, there are well over 20 Deputies on the Government side. I assure him of that.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath They were not here for a Wednesday evening.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Deputy McGrath was not here to vote on his own Bill.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Please ignore the side comments.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe If the Deputy wants——

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins That is out of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I ask the Chief Whip to answer the question and to ignore the comments.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath He is out of order.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I ask the Deputy to resume his seat.

[639]Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I had apologised for not being able to be here. I had a confirmation to attend.

Deputy Niall Collins: Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins It was his child’s confirmation. He could not be here.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.


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