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Leinster House

Coronavirus: Dáil set for three-hour sitting despite debate over whether it's 'essential'

The Dáil last sat a week ago as it concluded a marathon debate on emergency Covid-19 legislation.

THE DÁIL IS set to sit today with a limited number of TDs despite the objections of some politicians and even a warning by the country’s top civil servant.

The Oireachtas Business Committee decided on Tuesday today that TDs would attend the Dáil for three hours for statements on health and social protection issues. 

The Dáil last sat a week ago as it concluded a marathon debate on emergency Covid-19 legislation.

Since that sitting, however, more stringent measures have been brought in by government in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

The Taoiseach said that every person must work from home, but there are exceptions for  people in “essential” services. If it is not possible for those people to work from home they are permitted to travel to work. 

There has been disagreement over whether the planned sitting of the Dáil is deemed essential, with the Labour Party arguing that it is not and Sinn Féin saying it should sit

People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett said “democracy needs to continue” and the government “must be held to account”.

There are already restrictions placed on the work that can carry on in Leinster House, with a limited number of TDs permitted in the Dáil chamber and social distancing adhered to.

Only essential workers are permitted, such as politicians, civil servants, Oireachtas staff and journalists. Those that can work from home are urged to do so.

A number of areas are closed off in Leinster House, including the Dáil bar and the canteen. It is expected the Press Gallery, where journalists sit to observe proceedings in the chamber, may also be closed today. 

Yesterday it emerged that Martin Fraser, the Secretary General of the Government, sent a letter to the Dáil Clerk Peter Finnegan, stating that “everyone in the country has been asked stay at home, subject to the limited exceptions which have been published by the Government”.

- With reporting Christina Finn

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