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There will be no change to the 'ludicrous situation' where absent TDs means unanswered questions

TDs have complained that there is a false impression being created that politicians are not at work because they are absent from the Dáil chamber.

dail chamber Source: Screengrab/OireachtasTV

THE GOVERNMENT WILL not be making any changes to the way in which TDs ask questions of ministers despite the fact that dozens of questions went unanswered in the Dáil this week because deputies were absent from the chamber.

Reforms to Dáil rules last year mean that if a TD is not in the chamber when their question comes up then it does not get answered orally and there is no opportunity for debate with the Minister.

On Tuesday, 27 questions in a row were skipped because the TDs who asked them were not present, many of them attending a meeting of the Oireachtas Jobs Committee which was grilling bank executives about SME lending.

Source: Hugh O'Connell/YouTube

Dáil Technical Group whip and independent TD Catherine Murphy said that this highlighted the need for a dedicated committee week to avoid scheduling conflicts and said that the mistaken impression is being created  that politicians are not at work because they are not in the chamber.

“With the best will in the world a person cannot be in two places at the same time,” Murphy said this week.

But Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe said that the current system will not be changed, telling TheJournal.ie: “TDs have a responsibility to be in the chamber when their questions are being taken.”

He said it is up to TDs to schedule their time so as to avoid such clashes and be in the chamber when their questions are due. Questions that don’t get answered in the chamber are usually answered in written form, but there is no opportunity to follow-up and debate with a minister.

While the system was seen as a way of ensuring a more diverse selection of TDs, including government backbenchers, get to ask questions of Ministers and debate with them, it has been beset by problems with scheduling clashes meaning TDs who submit questions often don’t get to ask them because they are attending committee hearings or other events.

Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín criticised the “ludicrous situation that has become minister’s questions” and said that opposition opportunities to question a minister had been given over to government TDs who “don’t even bother turning up”.

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But of the 15 TDs who asked questions – but weren’t present – only four were on the government side – all Fine Gael – with five Fianna Fáil, and six independents absent.

This week was not the first time it has happened with over 20 questions going unanswered in the Dáil last December because of absent TDs:

Source: Hugh O'Connell/YouTube

Read: ‘A ludicrous situation’: Dozens of questions go unanswered in the Dáil because of absent TDs

Previously: Absent TDs and unanswered questions leave Micheál Martin criticising Dáil reforms

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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