AS IT HAPPENED: Taoiseach pressured on public sector pay in Leaders' Questions

Jokes about trains some slightly odd interruptions provided mild diversions in this afternoon’s session.

ENDA KENNY WAS in the hotseat once again this afternoon for Leaders’ Questions.

Micheál Martin, Gerry Adams, independent Mattie McGrath and Catherine Murphy of the Social Democrats had the questions today.

Institutes of technology and public sector pay were high on the agenda – but for the first time since his election, there was no mention of Donald Trump in the Dáil Q&A sesssion.

Here’s what happened:

Micheál Martin is first up – raising the important (but unglamorous) topic of funding for the country’s institutes of technology.

A report found, earlier this month, that almost half of institutes of technology in Ireland are facing serious financial challenges.


Enda Kenny says it’s accepted there’s a need for investment in the sector, and highlights a range of government efforts in the area.


Micheál Martin (as you might expect) says he’s not happy at all with the Taoiseach’s response.

It’s not the most exciting of openings to a session of Leaders’ Questions – but then that’s New Politics for you…

This exchange on ITs is continuing.

The Taoiseach says the government is well aware of what needs to be done, and in the course of his answer to Martin’s second question gets in a sly (if familiar-sounding) dig about the fact that Fianna Fáil presided over the financial collapse.

Gerry Adams is on his feet now.

He’s building up to a question about public sector pay.


He says progress is needed on public sector pay, acknowledging that it can’t happen “overnight”.

Those on low and middle incomes need to be prioritised, says Adams.

Access to the State’s industrial relations mechanisms must be given to the Gardaí and Defence Forces, he continues.


Does Kenny accept the need for urgent dialogue with the public sector unions, Adams asks.

The Taoiseach, responding, says a “well managed process” needs to take place.

“We stand by Lansdowne Road,” he says, referring to the public sector pay deal now being called into question in the wake of the Garda pay negotiations.

“The public service pay demands have to be balanced against the constraints” of the government, Kenny says.

We need, he says, “fairness across the board”.


Adams, responding to the Taoiseach, says he’d asked Kenny a simple question and accuses him of obfuscating.

Ad-libbing (presumably) he says that Micheál Martin has been “out strutting his stuff” on this issue, before imploring the Taoiseach to follow his own course.

Interesting, from Today FM’s man at Leinster House.

Mattie McGrath, the Tipperary independent TD, is on his feet now with a question about the construction of the National Children’s Hospital.


McGrath insists spending on the project is out of control.

It’s a “runaway train” the Tipperary TD says.

The Taoiseach responds initially with a bit of topical humour.

“I thought you were going to ask me a question about something else there,” Kenny says, in response to that ‘runaway train’ remark.

It’s presumably a reference to this story, and comments by McGrath’s constituency colleague Alan Kelly (below):


After the Taoiseach’s answer Sean O Fearghail, the Ceann Comhairle, interrupts proceedings to welcome a delegation of parliamentarians from China, visiting this afternoon.

There’s applause from the TDs and from the visitors.


McGrath, after that interruption, jokes that he’s losing his own train of thought.

We’re falling behind here a little, due to all the odd interruptions, but Kenny essentially stood over the Government’s stance on the National Children’s Hospital and its planned location.

They wouldn’t be changing the plan at this stage, after such a long (and winding, it should be added) planning process, he insisted.

Catherine Murphy of the Social Democrats is next up.

Will the Government oppose the planned acquisition of the Celtic Media Group by Independent News and Media, Murphy asks.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Committee (CCPC) approved the proposed acquisition last week.

Kenny and Murphy go back and forth on legislation covering media ownership.

Murphy reiterates concerns about concentration of media ownership.

She asks if he, personally, opposes the acquisition of Celtic Media and its regional newspaper titles.


The Taoiseach reiterates some of his earlier points, checking a few different A4 sheets as he responds.

He doesn’t answer whether he, personally, agrees or disagrees with INM’s plans to acquire the Celtic Group.

(Celtic Media controls high-profile regional papers like the Anglo-Celt in Cavan and the Meath Chronicle).

And that’s it from Leaders’ Questions.

We’re moving on with the Order of Business, in the Dáil.

No mention of Donald Trump this afternoon, which makes it the first Leaders’ Questions since his election that the US President-elect hasn’t been mentioned.

Gerry Adams, by the way, is already back on the Twitter Machine after his contribution:

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