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Dáil to sit on Thursday, but Labour TDs will stay at home to support the 'national effort'

Alan Kelly and Ged Nash will publish subtitled videos of their statements on social media.
Mar 31st 2020, 2:28 PM 17,380 48

THE DÁIL IS set to meet again on Thursday despite concerns being raised by some TDs about politicians returning to Leinster House during the Covid-19 restrictions. 

The Business Committee decided today that a limited number of politicians will attend the Dail for three hours for statements on health and social protection issues.

The Labour Party has said it disagrees with the decision of the Business Committee today that the Dáil would sit on Thursday, stating that it reversed a decision made yesterday not to sit.

In a statement, the Labour Parliamentary Party said it has agreed that its TDs would not attend the sitting of the Dáil for statements as “it is non-essential business” and due to no legislation being proposed on that day.

“They will instead support the national effort to stay at home, and not place an unnecessary burden on the Oireachtas staff, and staff of those departments who are working heroically to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak and it’s social and economic impact.

“There is a provision for statements to be laid before the Dáil instead, and our health spokesperson Alan Kelly TD, and Employment Affairs and Social Protection spokesperson Ged Nash will both avail of that opportunity as that is the business that is to be discussed. They will also publish subtitled videos of their statements on social media,” said the statement. 

It is understood that objections from members that the Dáil should not sit have been upheld, with Dáil proceedings set to go ahead.

Speaking on RTÉ’s One O’Clock News, People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett said “democracy needs to continue” and the government “must be held to account”.

He said it is “imperative” that the Dáil continues to meet so that the public’s concerns in relation to personal protective equipment (PPE), testing and social welfare issues can be raised.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty has also said it is “absolutely vital” that the Dáil continues to sit throughout Covid-19 crisis, including this week and over the Easter period.

“At a time when we are asking everything of frontline health workers and other workers in essential roles, it is incomprehensible that political accountability and scrutiny would take a back seat at this time. It is absolutely vital that the Dáil continues to sit throughout this crisis and show leadership,” he said.

“The Dáil has met twice in as many weeks to pass emergency legislation required to deal with the crisis and it is vital that it continues to sit at this time… There are very serious issues that require political oversight and accountability – including issues relating to income supports, jobs, banking, insurance and capacity in the health service; including the availability of PPE,” he said.

“This is particularly pertinent at a time when the current government derives its mandate from the previous Dáil and is operating in a caretaker role. Understandably, we will need to work within the parameters of public health restrictions that are required to protect both TDs and the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas, but there is a lot of work to do and it is imperative that the democratic process – at a time of national emergency – is upheld,” said Doherty.

Government formation 

While questions are being raised about whether everyday business at Leinster House should carry on, the focus on government formation has moved up a degree. 

While sources state that no new government will be formed this week, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has put a timeline on it today.

Martin told Highland Radio that a government could be formed quickly: “I would hope in the next two to three weeks we could see a new government emerging.”

After meeting last week, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil both agreed to develop a programme for government.

However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said they would need to reach out to the Green Party, the Social Democrats, the Labour Party as well as Independents to see who is willing to become part of a new government. 

Even if the number of 80 for a majority government is reached the work doesn’t stop there. Any final deal that is agreed would involve agreement and sign off from party conferences.

In a time of movement and gathering restrictions, and such party conferences would be difficult to organise. The next step is Fine Gael and Fianna Fail agreeing to continue talks with another formal meeting due to be held this week.

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Christina Finn

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