Martin may look at constitutional change to allow politicians take maternity leave
It is important that we bring progressive change on how parliament works, Taoiseach tells party
Taoiseach Micheal Martin told Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators that politicians needed to modernise how the Oireachtas does its business. Photograph: Laura Hutton
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the Government might consider Constitutional change to ensure maternity leave, childcare and other issues for women in political life are addressed as a matter of urgency.
He was speaking following the disclosure at the weekend there are no current provisions to allow Minister for Justice Helen McEntee - who is pregnant - take maternity leave.
When efforts were made in 2018 to introduce maternity leave for TDs, the Oireachtas was told that such a law might be contrary to the Constitutional requirement for TDs to be available at all times to be summoned to the Dáil.
Mr Martin said that reforms will be prioritised by the Government to support women in politics and he himself would work personally with the Oireachtas women’s caucus on this issue.
“It is important that we bring progressive change on how parliament works. Constitutional change needs to be seriously considered on this issue to bring permanent and sustainable progress,” he said.
Addressing colleagues at the weekly parliamentary party, Mr Martin also said it was a positive development on the party of the British government to remove the offending clauses from its internal markets Bill to allow the protocol on Northern Ireland to be signed off.
“Significant differences remain on the level playing field and there is an ongoing risk of a no deal Brexit,” he warned.
“There is a route to a resolution on fisheries. The impact of a ‘no deal’ is very serious across the regions. If a ‘no deal’ emerges we have a very serous situation as a country along with Covid,” he said.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly made a lengthy contribution on the Covid-19 vaccine plan, and also on the situation with regard to Nurses Pay.
However, while several TDs who are at the meeting said Mr Donnelly had spoken well, it was a week too late. Senator Eugene Murphy told the Taoiseach the party and Government had missed the tone of the political mood on the issue of student nurses and pay.
Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry also said it was a seek too late as far as the nursing issue was concerned. He told the meeting they had raised the issue of a bursary for student nurses last month. Like others he complained about a lack of strategy within the party on private members motion, saying that the Fianna Fáil response to last week’s motion was a disaster.
“We need to have a head of messaging for the party, ideally a TD or at least someone with a political nose to road test issues and now how things will okay out and be received.
“I asked several ministers last week who was in charge of messaging within Fianna Fáíl? None of them knew and neither do I and it shows,” he said.