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Seanad could sit more often than Dáil under new Leader's plans

Maurice Cummins wants to ensure that the Seanad sits on Fridays where possible – a practice not yet followed by the Dáil.

The members of the 24th - and possibly last - Seanad pose before their first meeting last week.
The members of the 24th - and possibly last - Seanad pose before their first meeting last week.
Image: Stephen Kilkenny

THE SEANAD MAY be earmarked for abolition by the Fine Gael and Labour government – but the new Leader of the House is proposing to see it go out with a bang, sitting more regularly than the Dáil itself.

Fine Gael’s Maurice Cummins, the new Leader of the House, has promised a series of procedural reforms to be fully unveiled on Wednesday – which, the Irish Times says, will include moves to make the house sit on Fridays.

The Seanad currently sits on most Tuesdays and almost every Wednesday – but usually only arranges a few hours’ business on Thursday before adjourning for the week, in line with its traditional role as a chamber for part-time parliamentarians.

Cummins’ new regime, if it sees the house extend its business into Fridays, would mean that the Seanad would actually sit for more days every week than the Dáil – which only sits on Tuesday afternoons and on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Previous governments have experimented with Dáil sittings on Fridays, but such an experiment has not been tried with the Seanad, whose members are not elected by the full public in the same way as the Dáil is.

The last time the Dáil sat on Fridays, meetings were plagued by poor attendance – with meetings occasionally being adjourned because the quorum of 20 members could not be supplied.

Whether the Seanad encounters similar problems trying to supply its own quorum of 12 remains to be seen.

One member unlikely to be enthused by the prospect of extra sittings is Labour’s John Whelan, who told yesterday’s Sunday Independent that he had become fed up with the nature of Seanad discussions after just 2.5 hours of business.

Members spent “most of their time talking either about themselves or their local parish pump issues,” Whelan told John Drennan. “It was a total mess of back-slapping, wind-baggery and hot air.”

The Irish Times has meanwhile confirmed that three members of the last Seanad will receive over €200,000 in retirement payments over the next twelve months.

The lucky three are controversial senator Ivor Callely, Leitrim veteran John Ellis who spent 30 years in Leinster House between the two chambers, and former Seanad Leader Donie Cassidy whose seat was lost to the aforementioned Whelan.

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Gavan Reilly

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