Dáil to return to Leinster House next month for new term

Public gallery to be used as extra seating for TDs to facilitate social distancing

The Dáil is expected to return to sittings in Leinster House when it resumes on September 15th. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Dáil is expected to return to sittings in Leinster House when it resumes on September 15th. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Dáil public viewing gallery is set to be used as extra seating for TDs to facilitate a full return to Leinster House next month, under new measures being considered.

Following a lengthy period in the Convention Centre during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Dáil is expected to return to sittings in Leinster House when it resumes on September 15th.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl said all 160 TDs would be returning to Leinster House, which would be “fully back and fully operational” at the start of the coming term.

In order to allow for better social distancing, TDs will also have seats in the public gallery, which looks down onto the chamber.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said “staggered voting is something that is going to be looked at” to avoid groups gathering together.

House of the Oireachtas officials are to prepare a “detailed report” next week which would lay out how the return to full sittings in Leinster House would work, he said.

The return of Dáil sittings to Leinster House was “absolutely” welcome, and had been called for, if not “demanded” by many deputies from all parties, he said.

The Dáil business committee is to meet before the return in mid-September, where parties would be briefed on measures that would be in place due to Covid-19.

A spokeswoman for the Houses of the Oireachtas confirmed the current plan was for Dáil sittings to return to Leinster House in September.

Many TDs had complained about holding sittings in the 2,000 seat Convention Centre, given the high costs, and the fact their offices remained across the city on Kildare Street.

During previous months the 60-member Seanad had been holding sittings in the Dáil chamber.

In June, the Dáil business committee agreed to continue to hold sittings in the Convention Centre for the remainder of that session of parliament, but signalled the Dáil would return to Leinster House in the autumn.