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Dáil to sit in Convention Centre for Taoiseach election vote

The cost of holding the sitting in the centre will be discussed on Wednesday.

The Dáil Business Committee decided the Convention Centre is the best location to ensure social distancing can take place between politicians.
The Dáil Business Committee decided the Convention Centre is the best location to ensure social distancing can take place between politicians.
Image: Shutterstock/Gimas

THE CONVENTION CENTRE is to be used for the full sitting of the Dáil which will be needed to elect the next Taoiseach. 

Last week, the Dublin Convention Centre and Dublin Castle were two locations under consideration, according to Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl.

However, the Dáil Business Committee met today and decided that the Convention Centre on Spencer Dock is the more suitable location.

A full contingent of elected TDs is needed to vote on a new Taoiseach when a new government is formed.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, Leinster House has remained open for essential workers, and in order for politicians to pass emergency legislation.

TDs and senators have had to adhere to social distancing guidelines, with only a limited number of TDs permitted in the Dáil at one time.

A maximum of 50 TDs are allowed in the chamber for votes and 20 for normal debates.

However, such arrangements would not be satisfactory for such an important vote as the election of the next Taoiseach.

The decision taken today by the Dáil Business Committee means work can get underway to ensure the venue is ready.

It is understood that the committee will meet again on Wednesday to consider the costs of moving the Dáil to the Convention Centre for the full sitting. 

It is believed there are costs associated with contractors fitting out the centre, as well as for the broadcasting unit that would be needed.  

It was also decided today that a sitting of the Dáil with a reduced number of TDs will take place on 16 April in Leinster House.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and the Minister for Health Simon Harris will face questions on the Covid-19 crisis.

Last week there was some controversy when Arts Minister Josepha Madigan said “shame on you” to TDs that called for the sitting to take place.

Harris said health and safety was being put at risk by politicians gathering in Leinster House. 

Those comments were roundly criticised by a number of TDs such as Richard Boyd Barrett, Pearse Doherty and Stephen Donnelly who said democracy can not be halted, stating that the caretaker government must still be held to account during the crisis. 

The matter of the who will be the next Leas Ceann Comhairle was also raised at today’s meeting.

It is understood some of the smaller parties are satisfied that Sinn Féin’s Aengus O’Snodaigh should take over the role temporarily, if there is consensus. However, Fianna Fáil is understood to have selected Brendan Smith. 

The matter has caused a headache for the government in recent weeks, with Varadkar asking Independent TD Denis Naughten to step into the role, for which he refused. 

Varadkar is believed to have said it would pose a problem if the Ceann Comhairle becomes incapacitated and cannot attend the Dáil,

The Dáil Business Committee also agreed a new mechanism to allow TDs table questions about the crisis today.

Parliamentary Questions have been suspended since the public health emergency, preventing politicians from asking the government about a range of matters relating to health, social protection and finance.

It was agreed that questions can be lodged from tomorrow and answers will be supplied by 17 April.

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