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Dublin: 20 °C Friday 7 August, 2020

The massive row that shut down the Dáil on Wednesday is only getting worse

It’s complicated, but let us explain…

Thomas Pringle, Catherine Murphy and John Halligan were all suspended from the Dáil on Wednesday.
Thomas Pringle, Catherine Murphy and John Halligan were all suspended from the Dáil on Wednesday.
Image: Hugh O'Connell via Twitter

THE POLITICAL ROW between the Dáil’s Ceann Comhairle and members of the Technical Group of independent and small party TDs is continuing today.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Barret has insisted that it is the “fundamental right” of all elected TDs to speak in the Dáil, despite the Technical Group criticising and protesting against his decision to allot some of the group’s speaking time to Reform Alliance TDs Lucinda Creighton and Peter Mathews.

The Technical Group now claims that legal advice it has received indicates that neither Creighton nor Mathews, two former Fine Gael TDs, are allowed join the Technical Group despite previous indications that they were allowed in.

The row began on Wednesday in the Dáil when Technical Group whip Catherine Murphy took issue with a letter Barrett sent to Creighton. In the letter he said he was prepared to allot speaking time to the former Fine Gael minister if she was not giving a slot by the Technical Group. 

Murphy and fellow independent deputies John Halligan and Thomas Pringle protested in the chamber and were eventually suspended before the rest of the day’s businesses was cancelled as TDs on the Technical Group intended to protest and be ejected from the Dáil one-by-one.

The Technical Group now claims that while an unaligned member (i.e. a TD not in one of the four main political parties) is eligible to join the grouping, they cannot unilaterally become a member without the approval of the existing membership.

However, in his statement today Barrett argued that “nowhere in standing orders does it say that a Technical Group can exclude a member who wishes to join”.

He added: “Indeed if that were the case we could have a situation where the majority of non-aligned members could oppress the rights of the minority.

“That alone would breach the principle of equal participation in the workings of the National Parliament.”

The Ceann Comhairle also said that “a simple point of principle” overrides any confusion, saying this is “that everyone elected to our parliament has the right to speak and nothing can undermine that democratic principle”.

Barrett said that Murphy should raise the issue and the possible changing of standing orders with the Dáil procedures committee, saying she has not done this.

Murphy accused Barrett of failing to fully read the legal advice, and told “We hope that he would take time during the Dáil recess to thoroughly consider the legal advice and give consideration to the wider implications.”

Previously: They didn’t want her, but the Technical Group had an ‘amicable’ meeting with Lucinda Creighton today

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Hugh O'Connell

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