More ‘allowed in Dáil bar than in chamber’ under new guidelines

Mattie McGrath called ‘political bluffer’ in row over return to Leinster House

Mattie McGrath TD outside Leinster House on Kildare Street. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Mattie McGrath TD outside Leinster House on Kildare Street. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

More people will be allowed in the Dáil bar than the Dáil chamber under new Government guidelines it was claimed, amid growing opposition to parliament sitting in the Convention Centre Dublin.

A row erupted between Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy and Independent TD Mattie McGrath after Mr Carthy called for the business committee to meet on Tuesday evening to come up with proposals to allow the Dáil sit in Leinster House permanently.

And Sinn Féin whip Pádraig Mac Lochlainn accused Mr McGrath of being “the most dishonest TD I’ve ever seen in all my nine years” in Leinster House and claimed the Tipperary TD was a “political bluffer”.

The politicians clashed when Mr McGrath accused Sinn Féin of grandstanding and “brass hypocrisy”, claiming the party failed to support his proposal to the committee last week that the Dáil resume full-time in Leinster House.

As the bells rang for a vote on the issue the row escalated when Mr Mac Lochlainn approached Mr McGrath who was chatting with fellow Rural Independents.

The Sinn Féin whip repeatedly shouted to Mr McGrath: “What proposal have you put to address the public health concern”, adding “your strategy is to be dishonest every week”.

“You’re the most dishonest TD I’ve ever seen in all my nine years. Completely dishonest.”

Earlier Mr Carthy told the House that “more people will be allowed to sit in the Dáil bar than in the Dáil chamber” and it was a “crazy situation”. He said that the committee should come up with proposals to allow a full-time return to Leinster House.

People are going back to school and to work at meet factories and other settings. “The suggestion that we can’t come up with a working proposal that protect public health that allows us to do our business in in this place is absolutely ridiculous.”

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl reminded deputies that at a special meeting of the business committee on the final day before the summer recess, a variety of experts on public health, gave submissions.

“In fairness, with the exception of Deputy Mattie McGrath who insisted that we should be here all the time everybody else saw merit in the expert advice we were being given”.

Mr McGrath accused Sinn Féin of “hypocrisy unbounded”.

The Taoiseach said the issue of where the Dáil should sit was a question for the Oireachtas and not Government which was very open to whatever decision was reached.

“We’re all agreed it is far more suitable, far more amenable for us to be here,” in Leinster House, he said.

There is dissatisfaction among many TDs about sitting across the river rather than in Leinster House. It has been agreed that the Dáil will sit in Leinster House on Tuesday and Wednesday and in the Convention Centre on Thursday for weekly votes to allow all TDs to vote.

In Leinster House only 45 of the 159 (excluding the Ceann Comhairle) can vote in order to conform to social distancing regulations.

Labour TD Duncan Smith said different parties and groups had different proposals and he suggested the committee meet within a week rather than on Tuesday evening.

Independent TD Thomas Pringle said that while everyone wants to be back in Leinster House they could not do so while “having to maintain the two-metre distance” and there was no point in a further meeting unless a one-metre distance is allowed.

The House voted to agree Thursday’s sitting in the Convention Centre.