Technical group moves over Wallace
The technical group of Independent TDs in Leinster House has sought the Dáil’s standing orders to be changed to prevent deputies from being able to join such a group despite the objections of its members.
The group’s whip, Kildare North TD Catherine Murphy, last night wrote to Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett with a request to table an amendment to the current standing orders. The move comes after Wexford TD Mick Wallace applied to rejoin the technical group this week, three months after voluntarily stepping down from it.
Under the present rules, there is nothing to prevent Mr Wallace from rejoining the group even if a majority of the group are opposed to him being a member.
A number of TDs told a meeting of the technical group this week that they would resign from the group if Mr Wallace rejoined. They included Finian McGrath, Seamus Healy, Joe Higgins and Shane Ross. However, a number of other members of the group, including Luke "Ming" Flanagan and Clare Daly, have stated they would support his reinstatement.
It is understood the Wexford TD has decided not to pursue his application.
Mr Wallace left the group voluntarily last June when it became known that he had deliberately understated VAT liabilities for his construction company, which had then agreed pay a settlement and penalites to the Revenue Commissioners for almost €2 million. Mr Wallace admitted at the time that it was unlikely that the money owed to Revenue would be paid.
Efforts continued behind the scenes yesterday to resolve the impasse, with members of the technical group saying privately they were hopeful that Mr Wallace would withdraw his application.
However, Ms Murphy’s letter to the Ceann Comhairle last night indicated the uncertainty within the group about the issue and about Mr Wallace’s intentions, with some pressing for the group to be allowed to organise itself more like a party, even though the ideologies of its members range from far left to centre right.
Ms Murphy’s letter, which has been seen by The Irish Times, specifically requests for the standing orders on how groups are formulated to be changed and for the matter to be discussed at the next meeting of the Committee on Procedures and Privileges, which oversees the running of the Dáil and also takes responsibility for ensuring decorum and discipline among TDs.
The United Left Alliance will have “no political connection with Deputy Mick Wallace going into the future,” Socialist TD Joe Higgins said at a ULA press conference yesterday. Mr Higgins said he had supported a move on Monday that Mr Wallace “would be asked not to seek to rejoin technical group”.
Ms Daly, speaking at the same conference, said the ULA had “no say over anyone in the technical group which was a technical arrangement for speaking rights”.
The technical groups are formed solely with the purpose of giving its members speaking rights and time in the Dáil, representation on committees, as well as the right to table private members' legislation and motions.
Until 1997, if there were seven independent TDs, a technical group was automatically created. But the rules changed after 1997, with a requirement for TDs to come together to form a group. However, under the rules there is nothing to prevent a TD from becoming a member of the technical group, if he or she so wishes. Members of the group do not have the right to block that deputy from becoming a member of the group.