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Empty Dáil chamber ahead of topical issues Oireachtas TV
Empty Chamber

Catherine Connolly almost abandoned topical issues due to Dáil chamber being empty

Connolly warned that she ‘would have no choice but to abandon topicals’ if members didn’t turn up.

TOPICAL ISSUES IN the Dáil were almost abandoned today because no TDs or ministers were present in the chamber.

Leas Ceann Comhairle Catherine Connolly was overseeing proceedings.

Speaking to an empty chamber, Connolly issued an appeal for members to “expedite the attendance in the Dáil”.

She then warned that she “would have no choice but to abandon topicals” if members didn’t turn up.

Topical issues was meant to begin at 5:30pm. However, a debate before it that had been given a four-hour time slot was instead finished in 40 minutes, bringing the start time for Topical Issues forward by hours.

Fine Gael TD Frank Feighan was due to be the first person to ask a topical question.

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Topical issues provide TDs with the opportunity to raise issues of concern to them.

They give notice to the Ceann Comhairle, who then selects four issues for debate on a single day.

In each case, the TD concerned makes a four-minute initial statement and the minister then has a right to make a four-minute statement in reply.

The TD then has a further two minutes for a supplementary statement, and the minister has two minutes for a concluding statement.

Topical issues were able to begin when a seemingly out-of-breath Chris Andrews entered the chamber to ask about the impact the sale of an An Post building in Rathmines would have on the local community.

Minister of State with responsibility for Disability Anne Rabbitte answered on behalf of Minister Eamon Ryan and junior minister Jack Chambers.

The next topical question was close to being deferred because finance minister Michael McGrath wasn’t present to answer a question on establishing a UN framework convention on international tax cooperation.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl was back in his seat at this stage, and remarked that Independent TD Joan Collins should have been informed if the minister was not going to be available.

She replied that she wasn’t informed of this, and the Ceann Comhairle apologised and said this shouldn’t have happened.

However, junior minister Neale Richmond entered the chamber just as the question was about to be deferred.

Connolly had previously noted to Collins that Richmond would be taking her question and acknowledged that he had been “caught up”.

While the Dáil chamber is typically packed with its 160 TDs for set-pieces such as Leaders’ Questions, it can often look quite different on other occasions, as was the case today. 

For example, in a moment widely shared on social media last month, Minister Roderic O’Gorman was the only person present in the Dáil chamber when delivering his opening remarks on International Women’s Day.

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