Tuesday, 17 May 1983
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. B. Ahern: We had a number of questions down to the Taoiseach today which have been ruled out of order. However, it is our understanding that they are in order. We have checked Standing Orders and we have found that the function of the Ceann Comhairle is to “examine every question in order to ensure that its purpose is to elicit information upon or to elucidate matters of facts or of policy”. We consider our questions come within that ruling. Deputies have received individual letters but they do not state the reason for ruling the questions out of order or why the questions do not comply with Standing Orders.
An Ceann Comhairle: As the Deputy knows, the Chair adjudicates on many questions each day: some day there could be dozens and other days there are less than that number. Regarding the questions mentioned by the Fianna Fáil Chief Whip, an adjudication was made on each individual question and a communication was given to each Deputy concerned, stating in writing the reasons on which each question was ruled out of order. Apart from not being in accordance with the rules, it would be quite chaotic and impossible to start having an adjudication  on each question here, even if it were in order. I am quite prepared to meet in my office Deputy Ahern, with or without the other Deputies concerned, and to explain the matter.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I am one of the other Deputies concerned in this matter. Standing Order No. 31 states that “questions addressed to a member of the Government must relate to public affairs connected with his Department...”. On 20 March the Taoiseach stated he would want to know why interest rates would not come down. In view of that statement, will the Ceann Comhairle endeavour to ensure that questions relating to this matter cannot be transferred to another Minister who has no responsibility in this connection?
An Ceann Comhairle: That is another question. I have replied to the query raised by Deputy Ahern and, of course, I will reply to the query raised by Deputy O'Kennedy but beyond that I will not go. That would constitute a questioning of the Chair's rulings in the House which I could not permit. In regard to the question raised by Deputy O'Kennedy, in my short time in the Chair I have pointed out on a number of occasions — as my predecessors have done on numerous occasions during my 20 years in this House — that the Chair has no control over the transfer of questions by the Taoiseach to a Minister or by any Minister to another Minister.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I appreciate that. Obviously the Chair has a special role and interest in ensuring orderly conduct at Question Time. If a question is put to the Taoiseach arising from a statement he made to the nation on 20 March saying he would want to know the reason interest rates would not come down — in fact, they have not — surely it is a matter of importance that the Taoiseach should not be allowed to fob that off to another Minister as Question No. 603, to a Minister who has no knowledge or responsibility for this statement?
An Ceann Comhairle: We are getting  into an argument and this cannot continue. I am sorry the Chair has no control over the transfer of questions by the Taoiseach to a Minister or by one Minister to another Minister. If Deputy O'Kennedy wishes to bring that matter before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges for discussion, he has machinery available to do that.
Mr. O'Kennedy: I accept that and we will bring it before the Committee. I presume we can rely on the Chair to ensure that matters will not be fobbed off by the Taoiseach to Ministers who have no knowledge or responsibility for them——
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