TDs agree to form Dáil technical group

Wed, Mar 9, 2011, 00:00

INDEPENDENT TDs and members of the United Left Alliance have reached agreement on the establishment of a technical group in Dáil Éireann which will enjoy the same privileges as a political party.

A total of 16 out of the 19 eligible TDs have agreed to join the group which will have speaking rights on a par with those of Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

The group will have three designated members who will take it in turn to participate in Leaders’ Questions in the chamber.

These are: Independent TD for Dublin North Central Finian McGrath, Independent TD for Dublin South Shane Ross and Socialist Party/ULA TD for Dublin West Joe Higgins.

The three Independent TDs who declined to join the group were Michael Lowry (Tipperary North), Noel Grealish (Galway West) and Michael Healy-Rae (Kerry South). It is understood Mr Lowry and Mr Grealish will support Enda Kenny in the Dáil vote for taoiseach today.

Kildare North’s Catherine Murphy has been chosen as the group’s whip, with Dublin Central’s Maureen O’Sullivan as assistant whip. Finian McGrath will chair the group, which is to meet on a weekly basis.

The group was established at a two-hour meeting in the audio-visual room of Leinster House yesterday afternoon. “The energy in the room was very positive and amazing,” Finian McGrath said.

“Everybody went out of their way to accommodate each other, with the objective of representing the views of their own constituents.

“There was also a strong national vision in the room, with people who wanted to fix the economy and at the same time look after the interests of the weakest sections of society.”

The Independents will have two positions at the front of the opposition benches, seated to the left of Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Other members will also sit in that section and in the back row of the opposition.

The group has no common platform or ideology and its membership ranges from right-of-centre in the person of Shane Ross to the militant left positions of Joe Higgins and Richard Boyd Barrett.

Two former members of Fianna Fáil Mattie McGrath (Tipperary South) and Tom Fleming (Kerry South) are also in the group.

As well as taking part in Leaders’ Questions, which is generally the most high-profile part of the day in the Dáil, the group can also submit private members’ motions and have a share of priority questions to ministers.

Mr McGrath said the arrangement was based on diversity and accommodating differences and speaking time would be shared out among members of the group which would be “run on a co-operative basis”.