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Senators exempt from Leinster House phone blocking... for now

Yesterday’s decision to block premium phone calls cannot be applied to Senators until they agree to a cap themselves.
Jul 8th 2011, 1:57 PM 341 1

THE NEW BLOCK on premium rate phone calls being made from Leinster House cannot be applied to members of the Seanad for the time being, TheJournal.ie has learned.

Yesterday the Dáil’s committee on procedure and privileges agreed to introduce the block on premium phone calls, in the wake of revelations that now-TD Michael Healy-Rae received 3,636 votes for a TV reality show from a Leinster House phone number in 2007.

But while the decision has been sent to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission for implementation, it cannot be put in place for all staff in Leinster House because the parallel Seanad committee has not given its approval for it.

An Oireachtas spokesman confirmed that a meeting of the Seanad’s similar committee on procedure and privileges was expected in the coming weeks so that the ban could be approved by Senators ahead of a full blanket ban.

In the meantime, however, the ban can only be imposed upon TDs, because the committee that approved the ban yesterday only represents them and not the Senators.

TheJournal.ie understands there are difficulties putting the ban in place in the meantime, as the intended purpose of the ban – to make it impossible to dial any premium line from any extension in Leinster House – would also include staff, who work for the Oireachtas itself and not for either the Dáil or Seanad.

As a result, the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission would need to have the final say on approving the ban – and it will need the Seanad’s approval to do so.

More: Michael Healy-Rae: ‘I knew nothing about it’>

Read: Healy-Rae will pay back money from Dail calls>

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Gavan Reilly

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