Labour TDs criticise decision for Dáil to sit on Thursday

Decision to hold sitting was based on the majority view of the party whips

A decision taken on Monday for the Dáil not to sit this week has been reversed and TDs will now attend two sessions on Thursday. Photograph: The Irish Times

A decision taken on Monday for the Dáil not to sit this week has been reversed and TDs will now attend two sessions on Thursday. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

After 24 hours of uncertainty, the Oireachtas has confirmed the Dáil has reversed its decision not to sit this week and will convene on Thursday afternoon.

While other parties pressed for the change, the Labour Party criticised the reverse and said it will boycott the sitting on the basis it does not respect the national effort for people to stay at home for non-essential purposes.

It has argued that because there is no legislation being discussed the sitting is not essential.

The party says all its TDs will remain absent and will make a contribution by way of video statements from its spokespeople, which will then be laid before the Dáil.

It was initially decided on Monday that no parliamentary sitting would take place this week.

However, following complaints by Sinn Féin and People Before Profit on Monday, an incorporeal meeting of the Dáil’s all-party business committee on Tuesday decided proceedings would go ahead.

The meeting took place by a series of individual telephone calls by Oireachtas officials to party whips asking them their opinion on whether or not a sitting should go ahead and, if so, what should be discussed?

The Oireachtas is not using teleconferencing facilities such as Zoom or Google Hangout for these meetings, which means no party whip was aware of the position of other parties. Oireachtas officials collated the opinions and decided to proceed on the basis of a majority favouring a sitting.

Two Dáil sessions will take place on Thursday. The first will be statements on health, and then statements on social protection. The relevant Ministers will commence each session, which will last 90 minutes.

In a statement, the Labour Party said it disagreed with the decision.

“We agreed that our TDs would not attend the sitting of the Dáil for statements on Thursday as it is non-essential business and not legislation that was being proposed.

“They will instead support the national effort to stay at home, and not place an unnecessary burden on the Oireachtas staff, and staff of those departments who are working heroically to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak and it’s social and economic impact,” the party said in a statement.

“There is a provision for statements to be laid before the Dáil instead, and our health spokesman Alan Kelly and Employment Affairs and Social Protection spokesman Ged Nash will both avail of that opportunity (to make statements by video).”