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The Convention Centre in Dublin Shutterstock/anyaivanova
Across the quays

Dáil staying in Convention Centre due to risk posed to members

Dáil sittings may return to Leinster House in autumn if 70 to 80% of the population is vaccinated.

THE DÁIL HAS decided not to return to Leinster House until the autumn because of an “unacceptable risk” to members.

Instead, the Dáil will continue to sit in the Convention Centre in Dublin up to its summer recess.

The Dáil Business Committee has decided that the Dáil could safely sit in Leinster House again when 70 to 80% of the population is vaccinated, but that that level of vaccination would not be reached until mid-August.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghail has said the committee agreed that returning to Leinster House now would “result in an unacceptable risk to all in our parliamentary community”.

“The key determinant of the resumption of sittings in Leinster House is the progress of the vaccination programme,” Ó Fearghail said.

“With 70% – 80% of the population protected, there will be a high degree of confidence that Dáil sittings could safely resume in Leinster House. However, this level of protection will not be achieved until mid-August.”

He expects that he will be “welcoming the full parliamentary community back to Leinster House for our Autumn session”.

The Dáil’s calendar for 2020/21 ends in July, with the last Dáil sitting scheduled for the 14th.

The Dáil usually resumes in September after a summer recess.

The decision to remain in the Convention Centre for the remainder of the current session was made this morning.

In a statement, Ó Fearghail, who also chairs the Dáil Business Committee, said the choice “has not been taken lightly”.

“Although we all wish to return to our normal workplace in Leinster House as soon as possible, the members of the Committee have agreed to accept the Health and Safety advice provided by the Houses of the Oireachtas Service and public health bodies,” Ó Fearghail said.

The Houses of the Oireachtas Service is focused both on minimising the risk of introduction of the virus into the campus and on minimising the risk of transmission of the virus within the campus. It is clear that there are risks associated with all levels of activity in indoor settings where people are congregating in numbers, even with mitigating factors such as physical distancing, face coverings and sanitisation.”

He cited the length of Dáil sittings, which can last eight to 12 hours, and the extent of parliamentary activities as other risk factors in a return to Leinster House.

At the start of the pandemic, social distancing guidelines and a cap on the number of TDs in the chamber were put in place for Dáil sittings in Leinster House.

In April, the Convention Centre was chosen as a location for all TDs to be able to sit to vote on a new Taoiseach, and has been used regularly since.

Leinster House has still been used at times during the pandemic, like on 10 November when TDs sat in Leinster House and then moved to the Convention Centre ahead of a confidence vote in Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

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