The Dáil resumes today for the long summer term, which will see TDs at Leinster House until mid-to-late July. It will be a busy few months as the Government seeks to press ahead with its legislative agenda, while dealing with the challenges of housing, health, cost-of-living increases, the more general fallout from the war in Ukraine, and the daily challenges thrown up by the business of government.
At present, the non-appointment of Dr Tony Holohan to a post in Trinity College and the future of turf are demanding much attention. Neither issue is likely to make the history books, but both are tricky politically and require time, attention, patience and willingness to compromise if they are to be resolved – and Ministers and their officials have finite amounts of all of these.
For the Opposition, the challenge will be to disrupt the Government’s message and exploit its internal divisions – within parties and between them – while at the same time filling in the picture of its alternative plan for government. This Government has been generous in providing the Opposition with opportunities to portray it as out-of-touch and unconcerned with the problems of ordinary people. But that’s only half the Opposition’s job – articulating a better alternative will be what matters more when the voters eventually come to choose who governs them.
In general, the Government is reaching the stage of its existence where it needs to know for certain that it is making concrete progress on the sort of bread and butter issues that matter to voters. There is always a lag between progress and the public perception of it, but Ministers need to know for themselves that their plans are working if they are to plot the future with any degree of confidence. If they are, that should be apparent to them soon. If not, same.
One of the most pressing problems on the Government's agenda is dealing with the influx of refugees from the war in Ukraine. The Cabinet meets this morning and will discuss two memos on the subject, one from the Department of the Taoiseach detailing the whole-of-Government response, the other from the Department of Housing, which briefs Ministers on the accommodation challenges. Jack Horgan-Jones has some details in today's lead story – among the proposals will be one to extend the hours of operation on construction sites in order to speed up delivery of new housing.
Another topic that will be much discussed around Leinster House this week will be the weekend news that the gardaí have sent a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) after their lengthy investigation into the leaking of a confidential document by Tánaiste (then taoiseach) Leo Varadkar to a friend in 2019.
Now the DPP must decide whether to prosecute him or not. Reports that Fine Gaelers were "relieved" at the news were a bit odd – they have nothing to be relieved about just yet. If the DPP decides to prosecute, it's curtains for Varadkar; if not, he's in the clear. But what if the DPP doesn't make a decision quickly? Could Varadkar be blocked from the taoiseach's office as he awaits a decision? Such a long delay is unlikely, this argues.
Finally, the big news on Twitter last night was about Twitter. Gazillionaire Elon Musk has agreed to pay $44 billion for the social media network, which is especially beloved (or something like that) of politicians and journalists. One of the things that Musk – a self-declared advocate of free speech – will have to decide is whether to keep the ban on Donald Trump in place.
Our report here.
Jack Horgan-Jones has a run-through of the legislative agenda for the coming term.
Fintan O'Toole has some advice for unionists.
Lara Marlowe on the aftermath of the French presidential election.
Long read on the battle for Donbas.
Mary Lou McDonald launches her party's election manifesto in Northern Ireland, and says that we are beginning a "decade of opportunity" for Irish unity.
The Cabinet meets this morning with a busy agenda. In the afternoon, the Dáil resumes after its two-week Easter break with Leaders' Questions at 2pm. There's new legislation on judicial appointments (the subject of an op-ed today) and questions to the Minister for Transport, while Sinn Féin has Private Members' time. The Dáil adjourns at 10pm.
In the Seanad, the Government’s online safety and regulation Bill begins its committee stage, with amendments expected from Government Senators to tighten up the legislation and – crucially – to introduce meaningful personal responsibility for directors of social media firms whose platforms knowingly cause harm to people. The Government’s response to the amendments will be closely watched. Maybe by Elon Musk? There are 228 amendments in all, so this will take some time.
There are 11 committees in sessions today, with four of them holding public sessions. The education committee is holding a discussion on Leaving Cert reform with education officials, while the environment committee will discuss the Government’s Retrofitting Plan.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is bringing her sex offenders Bill to the justice committee, while over at the children’s committee, witnesses from domestic violence charities will discuss the legislation to grant leave from work to people who are victims of domestic violence. The foreign affairs committee will discuss difficulties facing people who return home to live in Ireland.