Martin critical of changes to parliamentary question rules

Fianna Fáil leader among 12 TDs absent as failure to attend saw 24 questions go unanswered

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin (right) has criticised changes to the Dáil’s rules on parliamentary questions. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin (right) has criticised changes to the Dáil’s rules on parliamentary questions. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Fri, Dec 6, 2013, 19:48

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has criticised Government changes to rules under which parliamentary questions are asked in the Dáil.

Mr Martin said the move “diminishes the role and the capacity of the Opposition to table as many questions as they have tabled in the previous scenario”.

“I think that was a bad change and we opposed that because it’s reducing the capacity of the Opposition to get answers on a whole range of issues,” he said.

Under the reformed rules, a TD must be present in the Dáil chamber when they put down a question to the Minister for it to be answered orally.

Previously a question could be nominated in the name of a TD and answered by the party’s spokesperson if the party member did not attend.

Mr Martin was among 12 TDs absent yesterday when their question was called and 24 of the 37 questions on the Environment and Local Government question time agenda were not dealt with. The question in Mr Martin’s name asked the Minister Phil Hogan about his philosophy on philanthropy.

Mr Martin this afternoon defended his absence. “I had a very hectic day yesterday. As party leader there’s many dimensions to one’s functions,” he said.

He also said there were many questions tabled and “I’m not going to be in the Dáil all day long every minute of the day for every question.”

Senior party sources said later the question was submitted to the Taoiseach’s department, which referred it to the Department of the Environment.

According to Fianna Fáil the Taoiseach’s department usually writes to the party leader to inform him of the change but the party had not received such notification on this question.

On occasions in the past party officials submitted questions in TDs names without their knowledge, to allow the spokesperson get an answer on a particular issue.

But Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett insisted yesterday during Environment and Local Government Question Time that the new rules, which were introduced last month, be observed and he refused to allow questions to be answered orally if the TD was absent.

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