Taoiseach rules out committee rights for breakaway Fine Gael group

Lucinda Creighton is among the members of the Reform Alliance, the Fine Gael breakaway group. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Lucinda Creighton is among the members of the Reform Alliance, the Fine Gael breakaway group. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Thu, Sep 19, 2013, 01:27

Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night refused to extend committee membership rights to the Reform Alliance, the Fine Gael breakaway group.

The newly formed group of five TDs and two Senators made a significant breakthrough on Monday night when Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett extended speaking rights to the 14 non-aligned TDs in the Dáil.

While it has not resulted in a change of rules, it means that non-aligned TDs, including Fine Gael and Labour TDs who have lost the party whip, will be included in the rota of speakers as a matter of course.

However, Mr Kenny last night rebuffed a request to extend those rights to include full membership and speaking rights at Oireachtas committees. During the Order of Business in the Dáil, the issue was raised by Lucinda Creighton, one of the five expelled Fine Gael TDs in the group. She praised the Ceann Comhairle for the decision to inject more democracy and more opportunity for participation.

Ms Creighton asked Mr Kenny to instruct Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe “to liaise with those of us who find ourselves excluded from participation in Oireachtas committees”. She said it would be best to find a way to allow them represent the interests of the Irish people on all of the key issues of the day.

The Taoiseach responded by distinguishing between members of the Dáil’s technical group and those who “decide by their actions not to be members of a party any more.

“The position, as I understand it, is there is only one technical group in the House here. If anybody who is no longer a member of a registered political party, if they apply for membership of the technical group they cannot be refused,” he said.

He said non-aligned TDs are entitled to contribute to committees as non-members and to put down amendments to legislation during committee stage.

Another member of the Reform Alliance, Wicklow TD Billy Timmins, said yesterday he hoped the Government would adopt a similar approach for committees as the Ceann Comhairle had adopted in the Dáil.

He said it was inherently unfair that some members of the Dáil were on as many as three committees while non-aligned TDs and Senators, including members of the Reform Alliance, could not become full members of any committees.