What is the Dáil ‘money message’ argument about?

Ceann Comhairle suspended Dáil after row over private members Bill

The Ceann Comhairle suspended the Dáil after a row broke out over a private members Bill. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The Ceann Comhairle suspended the Dáil after a row broke out over a private members Bill. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

What is the row about?

The row in the Dáil over attempts to change standing orders has its roots in a long-running dispute over the use of a procedural device by the Government to block opposition Bills. Because only the Government of the day can introduce Bills which involve tax and spending measures, any opposition Bills which pass their first vote in the Dáil must be approved by the provision of a “money message” by the Government before they can proceed.

However, because it does not have a Dáil majority to block opposition Bills, the Government has resorted to the “money message” device to block more than 50 opposition Bills.

Why is the Government doing this?

It disagrees with many of the Bills tabled by opposition parties, but because it is in a minority, it can’t stop them in Dáil votes. So it has relied on the money message device to block them from progressing through the Dáil’s legislative processes – even when they are not tax or spending bills. Amongst the list of blocked Bills are ones to legalise the use of cannabis for medicinal reasons; to ban the import of goods from Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories; prevent evictions; ban fossil-fuel exploration; and many others.

What happened today?

The Solidarity-People Before Profit (PBP) group of TDs sought to bring a motion to change standing orders which would have enabled the Ceann Comhairle to allow Bills blocked by the Government’s use of the money message device to progress. However, the Ceann Comhairle, citing problems with the proposals, including their constitutionality, ruled the motion out of order.

The Solidarity-PBP TDs disagreed vehemently with his decision, though on a vote the House sided with the Government and the Ceann Comhairle, with Labour and Fianna Fáil backing the Government in a vote on the order of business.

What happens now?

The Government can continue to block opposition Bills by use of the money message device. A Dáil committee is examining a new procedure for money messages, though it has yet to bring forward its proposals. The Solidarity-PBP TDs say they are considering seeking a court injunction to compel the Ceann Comhairle to return their motion to the Dáil order paper, though on the evidence of today, they may not have the numbers in the Dáil to win a vote on changing the standing orders.

So what happens to all those opposition Bills?

Nothing. They sit there until the Government decides otherwise.