Speaking time for non-aligned TDs upholds parliamentary principle - Ceann Comhairle
Opposition claims it will mean less time for them and more for Government “genepool”
Seán Barrett: “W w e’ve got to find a way to ensure that those elected to parliament who are not in Government have a proper say in the decision -making process.”
Non-aligned TDs were granted speaking time in the Dáil to uphold a principle that “everybody elected by the people is entitled to speak in parliament”, according to Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett.
There was an increasing number of such non-aligned TDs, including a number who lost the Fine Gael whip in the controversial abortion legislation debate and vote.
In an interview with RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, Mr Barrett said a structure had to be put in place to ensure those non-aligned TDs got speaking time.
“We’ve got to find a way to ensure that those elected to parliament who are not in Government have a proper say in the decision-making process,” he said.
Mr Barrett said he was not consulted by the Government prior to publication of its Dáil changes including an extra 3½ hours during the current Tuesday to Thursday sitting days and earlier slots for Ministers’ question time.
“I wasn’t consulted but I had made my proposals 2½ years ago and there’s nothing that bothers me too much,” he said. He added that there should be more consultation with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
“Parliament has to be independent of Government,” he said.
If there was proper consultation, the Government’s changes could be implemented by the October 1st deadline. The Ceann Comhairle stressed, however, that for the Oireachtas committee system to have an effective role in parliament it had to have support staff and structures.
The Ceann Comhairle also proposed a shorter Ministerial question time, with TDs’ questions to be chosen on the day. This could mean up to 15 questions with proper answers, which would bring life back into question time, he believed.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on reform Sean Fleming said, however, the Ceann Comhairle’s proposals would mean less time for the Opposition to question Ministers, and less accountability. It would mean more time for Government TDs to ask Ministers questions and in “practice a majority of questions can be from party colleagues to party colleague Ministers”, he said.