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Government to block bill calling for new public holiday, despite one of its own calling for the same thing

The Public Holidays Bill 2016 is being brought before the Dáil today by Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh.

6990568651_a2e208c5ea_o St Patrick's Festival, Dublin, 2012 Source: Miguel Mendez

TODAY, A NEW public holidays bill will be brought before the Dáil by Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh.

It is not the first such bill brought by Ó Snodaigh – he brought similar legislation to Leinster House in 2013 during the lifetime of the last government, only to be turned down by then Communications Minister and Labour TD Alex White.

And today, it seems the Government is set to vote this new bill down once again.

The Public Holidays Bill 2016 is set to call officially for the amendment of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.

More simply, it’s calling for a new public holiday in line with the 1916 centenary – 24 April, the day the week-long Rising began 100 years ago.

It is not the first mention of public holidays in the news in recent times – last week Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes similarly called for additional days to be added to Ireland’s working calendar, saying that only three other EU countries have fewer public holidays than the nine Ireland currently has each year.

Irony

The irony of a government voting contrary to its own MEP’s wishes is not lost on Ó Snodaigh.

“Well last time out I had Alex White and I could point to contradictory statements from Ruairí Quinn, this time I don’t know who it’ll be, but I can point to Brian Hayes and the discrepancy there,” Ó Snodaigh told TheJournal.ie.

29/1/2014. Sinn Fein Political Reforms Aengus Ó Snodaigh Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Hayes’ rationale for the provision of a new holiday seems to be mostly economic. For Ó Snodaigh patriotism in the centenary year of the Easter Rising seems to be the dominant factor.

“I think it’s appropriate, particularly given how successful the 1916 celebrations were, to have a look at the independent struggle involved,” he says.

We would be looking for a number of events in each county on the day, to look at the idea of what was contained in the Proclamation. There are concepts there that I think we should have a debate on.”

We also think it’s appropriate for Ireland to have another non-secular public holiday, to celebrate our identity.

Regarding why the government would reject his legislation, Ó Snodaigh says he “doesn’t know why” that would be the case.

“Last time out we had nothing concrete from Alex White,” he said.

I can understand Ibec (Irish Business and Employers Confederation) or ISME (Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association) having a problem due to cost to businesses maybe, but there’s no rush on this.
They could let it go to committee stage, hear from people in different interest groups, see what they have to say.
But if they do vote against it it’ll be interesting to see why, especially if Fianna Fáil vote for it.

‘Not a priority’

27/3/2016 1916 Easter Rising Centenary Celebration An Irish flag flies at half-mast at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin in March this year Source: RollingNews.ie

As it happens, the department who will be handling this isn’t Communications, but rather Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and its Minister Heather Humphreys.

TheJournal.ie queried the department as to why the new bill was to face opposition.

Throughout consultations with stakeholders as to the nature of the 1916 celebrations “the idea of introducing a public holiday to take place on 24th April in each calendar year, was not identified as a priority” a spokesperson for the Minister said.

“The Government must also take account of the very considerable costs associated with introducing a new public holiday,” they said.

The Department of Jobs estimates that the total potential loss in productivity for an additional day’s public holiday would be approximately €396 million.
Now is not the time to be heaping additional costs on small businesses, particularly as we face into the Brexit era.

Read: “If we don’t get the legislation, we mightn’t have Ava for much longer”: A mother’s 150-mile protest

Read: Dublin fire crews express solidarity with their ‘brothers in blue’

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