WHAT ARE OUR politicians doing in the halls of Leinster House?
TheJournal.ie lets you know with our guide to what’s coming up to the Dáil, Seanad and various Oireachtas committees today.
The day begins with Leaders’ Questions at 10:30am, followed by a session of formal messages of sympathy to the family of the late Shane McEntee. McEntee, the former junior agriculture minister, died on December 21; the Dáil has yet to formally mark his passing, and will do this morning.
At about noon members will finish agreeing to the day’s agenda and there’ll be 65 minutes of statements on the two-day meeting of EU heads of government, which kicks off in Brussels tomorrow. That’s a big deal for Ireland, as the summit is aimed at trying to strike a deal on the EU’s seven-year budget for 2014 to 2020; as the president of the Council, it’s up to Ireland to ensure that the Budget gets transposed into law. That’ll bring us to lunch at 1:30pm.
At 2:30pm Alan Shatter takes Questions to the Minister for Justice – with the closure of Garda stations likely to feature prominently – while four of the day’s topical issues will be debated at 3:45pm.
The rest of the afternoon will see debate on two pieces of legislation: one to sell off the National Lottery (and create a new regulator to make sure that the new owner treats it well), and another to deal with water charges. The latter will get little time today.
At 7:30pm it’s back to the Technical Group’s motion on not making the next promissory note repayment – a vote on the government’s counter-motion (and effectively a vote on whether to default on the repayment next month) will be taken at 9pm.
The day’s Dáil business can all be viewed here.
Senators convene to discuss the day’s agenda at 10:30am, before planning minister Jan O’Sullivan leads a two-hour discussion on the state of the rented property sector.
There’s an extended lunch break, before members get back together at 4:30pm to see Alan Shatter introduce legislation which would grant a legal pardon to Army deserters who fought in World War II. The law pardons about 5,000 Irish soldiers who joined the Allies and were stripped of their Defence Forces pay and pensions when they returned.
Shatter will stay behind at 6pm to fend off a Fianna Fáil motion calling for the reopening of Garda stations – a debate which will take on new life since a Labour senator accused the minister of joking about how many stations he could close in 10 minutes. A vote is taken at 8pm.
The day’s Seanad business can all be viewed here.
It’s a crammed day, with seven different meetings going on. Here they are, in chronological order:
- 9:30am: The Transport and Communications committee hears from IALPA, the union representing Ireland’s airline pilots, about the effects of the new European proposals on working hours for pilots and cabin crew. There’ll also be a chat about windscreen replacement standards. (Watch here.)
- 10am: The Finance committee discusses public input on the proposed updates of Ireland’s Freedom of Information laws. Gavin Sheridan of TheStory.ie will be one of those arguing the case of dropping the €15 charge and loosening the law. (Watch here.)
- 10:30am: The Environment sub-committee has an in-depth discussion on the impact of the proposed Dáil boundary provisions, and considers proposed amendments to them. (Watch here.)
- 1pm: The Education and Social Protection committee considers a Department of Social Protection report outlining how the value of private pensions can vary by up to 31 per cent, simply because of the charges levied by the provider. (Watch here.)
- 2:30pm: The Foreign Affairs committee hears from the EU’s special representative for human rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, on the role of his office. (Watch here.)
- 3:15pm: Paul Maguire, the editor of RTÉ’s investigations unit who has done major work on Ireland’s sex trade, addresses the Justice committee on proposed changes to Irish prostitution law. (Watch here. A previous meeting at 2pm, where a sex worker will give her opinions to the committee, is being held in private.)
- 4pm: The Public Service Oversight and Petitions committee hears from James Reilly, Kathleen Lynch, the Department of Health’s Ambrose McLoughlin and figures from the HSE on the Ombudsman’s reports about the motorised transport grant and how the Department has been illegally rejecting applications for it. (Watch here; see ‘One to watch’ below.)
TheJournal.ie‘s one to watch
One of the main features of RTÉ’s new-format Prime Time on Monday night was the appearance of Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, who could barely disguise her contempt for the Department of Health and its cavalier attitude to the law.
The Department has enough problems to deal with at the moment – but today will have to answer questions from TDs, in a committee chaired by Sinn Féin, on why the Ombudsman found it to be acting outside the law.
The hearings relate to O’Reilly’s reports last year about the Department’s attitude to the motorised transport grant – a grant paid to people with disabilities so that they can afford to buy a car and, therefore, earn their own living.
The Department – seemingly arbitrarily – has been rejecting all applicants over the age of 65, seemingly on cost grounds, even though those applicants are legally entitled to the grant.
The fact that the meeting will be only the second chaired by Padraig Mac Loghlainn – one of the most vocal anti-Government TDs in the Sinn Féin ranks – means it’ll be even more difficult for questions to be dodged.
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