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This wasn't the first time a TD refused to leave the Dáil...

Can you guess which current TD refused to leave the chamber back in 1999?

MARY LOU MCDONALD made headlines today by refusing to leave the Dáil after she was suspended.

A four-hour stand-off between the Sinn Féin TD and Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett resulted in the early adjournment of the House.

Barrett, who is something like the school principal of the chamber, said afterwards that he regretted the decision but felt there was no other option available to him.

And there was precedent for that decision.

On 23 March 1999, something similar happened with then-Labour deputy Róisín Shortall.


It wasn’t quite a four-hour sit-in, but there were some dramatic scenes, which looking back hold a comedic value probably not realised at the time.

On that day, the Ceann Comhairle was absent so his seat was filled by his Vice, who it seems was treated a bit like the substitute teacher.

It all started to unravel when then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was answering questions about overdue legislation.

Shortall became angry over the lack of progress on the juvenile justice Bill but An Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Rory O’Hanlon, was clear that there would be no more statements. “We have long passed the time for the Order of Business,” he said, with certainty.

Here’s what happened next. 

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I call Deputy Stagg.

Shortall: The Taoiseach is giving us new information. Until now he has said that the Government was working on amendments. He is now saying the Government will bring forward a new Bill. Will the Taoiseach clarify that because it is important—

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Allow the Taoiseach to reply, Deputy Shortall.

The Taoiseach: I have just answered that question in reply to Deputy Currie, but I will answer it again. There are several hundred amendments to the Children Bill. The Bill, at this stage, is not recognisable from what it was a year ago—

Austin Currie: Two years ago.

The Taoiseach: —because of what is happening domestically and internationally. We will either have to amend the Bill entirely or bring forward a new Bill, which seems more sensible. Either way, the Government is working on it and will bring it forward as soon as possible.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I call Deputy Stagg.

Shortall: Which way does the Taoiseach intend to do it?

Bertie Ahern

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Shortall, I ask you to please resume your seat. I have called Deputy Stagg.

Shortall: We have been hearing different information on this important legislation for the past two years. The Government does not seem to know where it is going.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask Deputy Shortall to resume her seat while the Chair is on its feet.

Shortall: The Taoiseach has given two different replies today.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Respect the Chair, Deputy Shortall. The Chair is on its feet. I ask you to resume your seat. I call Deputy Stagg.

Shortall: Which is it? Does the Taoiseach know what is happening in relation to this Bill?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Shortall, resume your seat.

The Taoiseach: If Deputy Shortall is interested in seeing the Bill, the Bill will be brought forward. We have several hundred amendments and a decision will be made, when all of those have been examined, on whether to bring forward a new Bill or proceed with the existing Bill.

Proinsias De Rossa: When will that happen?

The Taoiseach: I gave that answer here about six weeks ago.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I call Deputy Stagg.

Shortall: Two years have gone by, Taoiseach.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Shortall, I ask you to respect the Chair and resume your seat.

Shortall: I am asking a question.

Proinsias De Rossa: On a point of order, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the Deputy is asking a legitimate question.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy De Rossa, you also know that you must resume your seat when the Chair is on its feet. The Taoiseach has answered the question. The Deputy has been told about promised legislation. I call Deputy Stagg.

Liz McManus: She has not been told.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask Deputy Shortall to resume her seat or leave the House.

Shortall: When can we expect that Bill?

The Taoiseach: As soon as possible.

[Pat Rabbitte obviously interjects next]

Pat Rabbitte: I think Deputy Conor Lenihan wants to throw his diaper into the debate.

[So now O'Hanlon needs the big guns...]

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I will suspend the sitting of the House for five minutes to call the Ceann Comhairle if the Deputy is not prepared to leave the House.

[The Dáil is suspended for 10 minutes. They all return, with the Ceann Comhairle Séamus Pattison at 5pm. He doesn't sound happy about the report "concerning disorder".]

Ceann Comhairle: I move: “That Deputy Shortall be suspended from the service of the Dáil. Is this motion opposed?”

Brendan Howlin: Yes.

[The question is put to the chamber and a vote taken. It all gets a bit confusing then, and the House tries to move onto the next topic, with Shortall suspended on that particular segment. However, Emmet Stagg now decides he wants to speak after all.]

Stagg: On the Order of Business, a Cheann Comhairle—

Ceann Comhairle: The Order of Business is concluded.

Stagg: I had been called to speak.

Ceann Comhairle: I called No. 7 and I call Deputy Rabbitte to introduce that Bill.

Stagg: On a point of order, I was called by the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to ask a question on the Order of Business.

Ceann Comhairle: I understand there was disorder and the Order of Business is now concluded.

Stagg: May I ask a question? What the Leas-Cheann Comhairle deemed to be disorder occurred, and arising from that I was not reached, but I had been called by him.

Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy has a brief question that is strictly in order, I will allow it, but Deputy Shortall must leave before Deputy Stagg asks his question. The House cannot proceed with any business until Deputy Shortall leaves the Chamber.

Howlin: What will the Chair do – suspend her? The vote has been called. It is obvious the majority in the House would defeat that question.

Ceann Comhairle: Under Standing Orders Deputy Shortall must leave the House.

Dermot Ahern: The Deputies opposite signed up to the Standing Orders.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair must implement Standing Orders. I do not have any choice in this matter. I cannot allow Deputy Stagg to proceed until Deputy Shortall leaves the House. I suspend the House for a further ten minutes.

[So, after a full three minutes back, the chamber was suspended for another 10 minutes. Resuming at 5.10pm, Shortall had still not left.]

Ceann Comhairle: As Deputy Shortall has refused to leave the House, I suspend the sitting. The Dáil stands adjourned until tomorrow.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.10pm until 10.30am on Wednesday, 24 March 1999.

So there, Mary Lou, you may have a friend in unexpected places.

Read: Dáil adjourned until Tuesday after Mary Lou stages four-hour sit-in

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