Flanagan attacks Coalition’s Dáil reform efforts

TD in wide-ranging criticism of every aspect of Dáil’s operation

FG parliamentary party chairman Charlie Flanagan told the House during the 
ongoing
continuing debate about the proposed abolition of the Seanad, that he supported such a move “because it has outlived its usefulness”.

FG parliamentary party chairman Charlie Flanagan told the House during the ongoing continuing debate about the proposed abolition of the Seanad, that he supported such a move “because it has outlived its usefulness”.

Thu, Jun 20, 2013, 01:00

A senior Fine Gael member has launched a scathing attack on the Government’s efforts at Dáil reform.

Parliamentary party chairman Charlie Flanagan told the House during the continuing debate about the proposed abolition of the Seanad, that he supported such a move “because it has outlived its usefulness”.

But he said of the pace of Dáil reform, “the programme of new politics as flagged by my party is not yet in evidence”. And he warned that “unless we change the way we do our business here, cynicism will grow and we will become irrelevant”.

In wide-ranging criticism of every aspect of the Dáil’s operation, he said of decisions to curtail debates with an early deadline, “We were told that guillotine motions would become a thing of the past”.

But in 2011, when the Government came to power, there were 50 guillotine motions. “This increased to 52 in 2012 and this year alone 16 guillotine motions have been put to the House.”

Overall there had been 118 such motions, which he described as a poor record. With the upcoming summer recess, “the rush to enact legislation under a guillotine motion will be all the more remarkable”.

He highlighted comments by the Government Chief Whip that the administration’s record was “deplorable” in holding Ministers accountable to the House.

He said there was no working group on Dáil reform and “no one is measuring the outcomes of our political deliberations. A meaningful programme of Dáil reform is like a snowstorm in the desert.”


Backbench opposition
The Laois-Offaly TD said the real Opposition was the Government backbenchers. “With 51 members, this backbench group is the largest voting bloc in the House” and he believed the Fine Gael parliamentary party exerted more influence on the Government than TDs in the chamber.

The Government controlled the entire agenda of the House. In Westminster, from which the Dáil adopted its rules, “20 full sitting days a year are given over to the Opposition and free votes are common”.

But the Dáil was subject to a three-line whip every week. “The legislative programme is under the stranglehold of the whip system,” he said.

He suggested that question time to the Taoiseach and Tánaiste should be operated on a lottery system when the 50 or 60 TDs who tabled questions would come in and be ready to have their question answered. “That would introduce an element of debate and less stage management.”