An Independent TD had to bring her child into the Dáil chamber because the Oireachtas has not implemented a proposal from a report the Ceann Comhairle commissioned that recommended voting should take place during business hours.
Violet-Anne Wynne, a former Sinn Féin TD, last week brought her child into the Dáil chamber during Wednesday’s voting block. The Independent TD made history by becoming the first TD to bring her baby into the Dáil for a vote. The move was widely welcomed across the political spectrum.
The Forum on a Family-Friendly and Inclusive Parliament made a series of recommendations last November to make the Oireachtas more inclusive for parents and their children. Seven of these recommendations were set to be implemented by September of this year. So far, only two have come into force.
One key recommendation was that the Dáil should vote during business hours, and not late at night as is usually the case. Currently, the Dáil votes on all matters in a single voting block on a Wednesday evening, usually after 8pm.
The report said: “By September 2022, Dáil voting block to be moved within the weekly schedule, so that it is taken in the afternoon.”
Ms Wynne had to bring her baby daughter Collins into the Dáil chamber because the recommendation had not yet been implemented.
She told The Irish Times: “The ushers were fantastic in helping, she was asleep when I first brought her into the chamber, so I left her in the pram and she was at the back of the chamber there and the ushers were with her in case she woke up to give me the nod.
“If we are talking about women being included in politics, sometimes there will be that moment, where it did for myself, where I did not have any other option. In those circumstances especially, to be accommodated was the right thing to do.”
Ms Wynne said there were creche facilities in Leinster House, but they closed just after 6pm. “If business is going to continue on from then, that needs to be looked at. There was no other option for me in that regard.”
She said the reaction from Oireachtas staff and other parliamentarians had been “very warm”.
“It was so last-minute, I only looked for so many hours with the creche [in Leinster House] and they were so accommodating.”
The Dáil, Seanad and Oireachtas committees have now published a sitting calendar for the year, where recess weeks are aligned with school holidays at Easter, Halloween and Christmas.
In July the Committee on Dáil Reform also introduced a new rule that would formally allow for a pairing system to be introduced when a TD is on paternity leave or other statutory leave. The forum had recommended that a formal pairing system also be introduced to facilitate “essential Government business”. This was not included in the new rules introduced by the Dáil reform committee.
Other recommendations that the Oireachtas was not able to confirm had been implemented include a commitment that the Seanad would establish finishing times for sitting days in the Standing Orders and introduce a voting block to be taken in the afternoon of a sitting day.
A “suitable, comfortable space” for infant feeding was also to be introduced, with more signage to be put in place in Leinster House so that staff, members and visitors are aware of locations.
A dedicated “family room (ideally located close to the chambers)” for children of members was also to be introduced by September.
A spokeswoman for the Oireachtas said: “A steering group was established earlier this year to look at the implementation of the various recommendations. A report is at draft stage and will be presented to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission in due course. At that stage the report will be publicly available.”
She was unable to confirm if the additional five recommendations that were due to be in place by September had been implemented.
Fiona O’Loughlin, the chair of the Irish Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, said they would be writing to the Ceann Comhairle about the lack of progress made on the report.
She said: “We absolutely are writing to the Ceann Comhairle to say that we are disappointed that more of these [recommendations] have not been implemented.”