Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: Normally, on occasions like this the Dáil breaks for approximately two weeks. In this case, I see no reason the Dáil should not be back here on Tuesday next but there is a practical problem regarding oral questions. Obviously this constitutes a major break with tradition and consequently the Government does not propose to take oral questions on Tuesday next.
Deputy Gerry Adams: With respect, this is not a big break from tradition. Although citizens wish to see the reformation of this institution, the Taoiseach proposes not to allow oral questions in its first full sitting.
The Taoiseach: Not so, Deputy Adams. Were the Deputy to look back at the record of the last 50 years, it would show that on each occasion when a new Government has been appointed, the break was for at least two weeks. In this case, we will return on the first available opportunity, that is, next Tuesday, to deal with certain matters and to make changes to enable Deputies on all sides to get on with their business.
Deputy Micheál Martin: What is important is that people are interested in meaningful reform. If Members are talking about changing the way they do things, there must be substance but it seems that we are getting optics and gesture politics. In other words, the fear on the Government side is that it should come back, lest something is said about it otherwise. Members need to know that something of substance will be on the agenda next Tuesday and that this is not simply about image and playing gesture and optic politics. I suspect this to be the case and I seek the agenda for next Tuesday. Will legislation appear before the House next Tuesday or is there a specific topic to be discussed? I am for meaningful political reform and changing how Members actually do things. I made the point during the campaign and in previous weeks that there is no point in having additional sittings if Members continue to do the same Punch and Judy show. Some substance is required in this regard.
The Taoiseach: I thank Deputy Martin for his earlier comments. The first thing to happen next Tuesday will be Leaders’ Questions, at which the Deputy can ask a question more meaningful than the one he has just asked.
Deputy Micheál Martin: A Cheann Comhairle, I simply ask what is the agenda for next Tuesday. While the Taoiseach has stated that oral questions would not be taken, he now has stated there will be oral questions.
Deputy Micheál Martin: At the outset, the Taoiseach stated no questions would be taken. I genuinely seek to ascertain who will be present next Tuesday and what will be the agenda. That is a reasonable thing to ask.
The Taoiseach: The Deputy will be given a formal agenda. I can tell him that unlike some occasions in the past, Leaders’ Questions will be taken next Tuesday, when Deputy Martin can ask anything that comes into his head.
The Taoiseach: Allow me to say that I am not interested either in the Punch and Judy show, which is irrelevant. I am talking about really effective change and Deputy Martin will find that he will have an opportunity to contribute to that and to make this House more meaningful for everyone.
An Ceann Comhairle: Sorry, Deputy I already have allowed you in. This is a technical motion and is not about what business will be taken next week. It is a technical motion to allow the sitting next Tuesday. On that day, Members may raise matters in respect of these items.
An Ceann Comhairle: Sorry, would the Deputy mind sitting down? In between, it is a matter between the Whips to decide on what business is or is not taken. We cannot discuss next Tuesday’s business on a technical motion, the purpose of which is purely to put in train the procedures for the sitting next Tuesday.
Deputy Joe Higgins: I will make a brief comment on the Standing Order. Will the Taoiseach be present to answer questions next Tuesday? Will he tell Members what will be the business of the Dáil? It is not good enough to leave it until next Tuesday. The Taoiseach is making a big fist of meeting next week. It must be meaningful and Members must know what is the agenda in order that they can prepare for it. This is reasonable.
The Taoiseach: I thank Deputy Higgins for that concise remark. The answer to the first question is “Yes”, as I will be here. The answer to the second question is that the Whips will meet tomorrow to define that agenda. We are waiting to go through these technicalities to appoint formally a Whip and a government with the President’s seals of office. Deputy Higgins will be notified of the agenda as soon as that has been fixed tomorrow.
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