TDs vote to stage a vanishing act for Halloween
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. “There is no consistency between the position he [Eamon Gilmore] adopted as an Opposition party leader and that which he is now supporting and advocating in government.”
Dáil reform! Don’t you just love it? Cross-party pledges about new political ways are all very well, but please do not interfere with the post-Halloween break from legislative duties.
That appeared to be the message from Leinster House yesterday.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore read out the details of the Order of Business and, almost as an aside, proposed that the Dáil adjourn today until Tuesday, November 5th, at 2pm. The implications were obvious.
There would be no plenary session of the House in the week following the October bank holiday weekend.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Tánaiste and Ministers would be under no parliamentary scrutiny for more than a week in the aftermath of a controversial budget that provoked demonstrations outside Leinster House by the young and the old this week.
Nor would our parliamentarians suffer any reduction in income, unlike those who vented their anger at the gates of their place of work. Did this make Government backbenchers uneasy or send shock waves throughout the Opposition benches? Did it lead to the inevitable row?
The Opposition was furious at Gilmore’s proposal to restrict debate on the Social Welfare Bill to a late sitting yesterday and today. In fact, there was a noisy row about it. The absence of a sitting next week though did not figure in the heated exchanges.
“The question to be put to the Dáil tomorrow requires that only amendments prepared and put by the Minister can be voted upon,” complained Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.
“In a very stark way, that illustrates the paucity of genuine engagement that will occur on the Bill.”
He claimed that the Government wanted to ram the Bill through the House as quickly as possible to shut down dissent and stop the negative publicity that might arise, hoping that people would forget about it in due course.
Some hope of that happening, given the post-budget public mood right now.
Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin was equally angry.
“Let us consider the Tánaiste’s record of opposition to guillotines in this House over many years,” he added. “There is no consistency between the position he adopted as an Opposition party leader and that which he is now supporting and advocating in government.”
Rounding on Fianna Fáil, Gilmore again illustrated that the political past is still not a foreign country for the Soldiers of Destiny.
The Government, he said, was allocating 13 hours for debate on the Bill, which contrasted with the six hours and 15 minutes set aside by Fianna Fáil in office in 2010.
“The Government parties promised to be different,’’ said Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea.
Votes were challenged on the proposals for the debate on the Bill, which the Coalition easily won. The chamber filled up with TDs. As the Order of Business came to a close, Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett had one more question to put.
“Finally, is the proposal that the Dáil, on its rising tomorrow, shall adjourn until 2pm on Tuesday, November 5th, 2013, agreed to?” There were no dissenting voices in a chamber normally at war. “Agreed,” said the Ceann Comhairle.
Meanwhile, by lunchtime yesterday, the Seanad had adjourned for a similar break. However Senators did decide to return at 1.30pm rather than 2pm on Tuesday week.
On Wednesday, the Seanad spent two hours debating on how it might reform itself. Maybe that is a small start.