Dáil adjourned in chaos after filibustering on Road Traffic Bill

Rarely used rule invoked as Catherine Murphy criticises disrespect shown to House

There were heated exchanges and repeated interruptions with Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher suspending the House amid chaos over the controversial Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

There were heated exchanges and repeated interruptions with Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher suspending the House amid chaos over the controversial Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times.

 

A rarely used Dáil rule was invoked to end filibustering in a debate on drink driving and learner driver-related legislation.

There were heated exchanges and repeated interruptions with Leas Cheann Comhairle Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher suspending the House amid chaos over the controversial Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy had invoked section 68 of the House rules or standing orders to guillotine a lengthy debate on the legislation. This allows for a vote on the immediate suspension of discussion.

She called for the debate to end as Independent TD Mattie McGrath continued to speak despite being repeatedly asked to finish by Mr Gallagher.

Mr McGrath had spoken for more than two hours in total including more than an hour on Wednesday night on a report stage amendment to the controversial legislation.

He had been speaking for the entire 30 minutes of debate on Tuesday night and for more than 40 minutes on Wednesday of last week, during the last session of debate on the Bill.

The legislation provides for an automatic driving ban for first time drink driving offenders caught with blood alcohol levels of between 50 mg/100 ml and 80 mg/100 ml.

The Bill, sponsored by Minister for Transport Shane Ross, also provides for gardaí to seize a car driven by an unaccompanied motorist on a learner permit.

Disadvantage

Mr McGrath and a number of rural Independent TDs argued that the Bill put motorists in rural areas at a disadvantage because of a lack of public transport in rural areas.

After Mr Gallagher repeatedly asked Mr McGrath to stick to the point and subsequently to bring his remarks to a conclusion, Ms Murphy proposed the debate be drawn to a close.

The Kildare TD said disrespect had been shown to the Leas Cheann Comhairle and to the House in relation “to the degree of repetition”.

Ms Murphy said she was a member of the transport committee. “We sat through pre-legislative scrutiny and we also had a committee debate.”

She said Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae participated at the committee debate but others did not.

When she called for the debate to end the bells rang but a challenge by Mr McGrath, Independent TD Michael Collins and Danny and Michael Healy-Rae was rejected because a vote requires 10 TDs.

Votes were called for two more amendments but did not go ahead because the rural TDs did not have sufficient support.

Another row ensued when Mr McGrath sought to make a point of order about the re-committal of the legislation.

Heckling across the chamber ensued and the Leas Cheann Comhairle suspended the sitting at 10.12pm.