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The Dáil's back today. Here are 7 things to look forward to in the new political season

An election looms…

THOUGH IT’S ALREADY been a busy September, the political season will kick off in earnest today when TDs and Senators return to Leinster House for the usual shouting, roaring and the odd bit of legislating.

The Dáil and Seanad are back in session after a lengthy summer break that has seen plenty of talk about the forthcoming general election.

That will be the dominant theme in both houses over the next few months as parties and candidates frame their message for voters.

What can we look forward to in the months ahead? Here’s a quick run down…

1. Everyone talking about the election

Whether it’s in November or February – and we still think it’ll be the latter – the looming general election will be on everyone’s lips. All political parties will be approaching the current term with their minds focussed firmly on winning as many votes as possible at the polling booth.

Dáil_Chamber This place will be empty come election time. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Dáil and Seanad will become increasingly irrelevant for many as the election draws closer. Since the start of the year many TDs have been focussed firmly on shoring up their vote back in the constituencies, arriving in Dublin as late as they possibly can on Tuesday and getting back home early on Thursday.

There are doors to be knocked on and leaflets to be distributed and none of that can be done on Kildare Street.

2. The fallout from Fennelly

The controversy arising out of the publication of the report into the circumstances of Martin Callinan’s departure last year may have died down, but it will return to the news agenda this week.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have both tabled motions of no confidence in the Taoiseach.

1/12/2011 Oireachtas Christmas Trees Michael Ring, a constituency colleague and strong defender of Enda Kenny. Source: RollingNews.ie

This sets the stage for a debate on Enda Kenny’s competence and his handling of the Garda Commissioner’s departure. Expect plenty of condemnation, criticism and outrage from the opposition while government ministers and backbenchers row in behind Kenny. Michael Ring will no doubt shatter glass with a tub thumping speech in support of his constituency colleague.

But the response of Labour TDs will be interesting. None of them, including Joan Burton, have looked or sounded particularly comfortable talking about the Fennelly report in the media. Will there be more of the same in the Dáil?

3. What will Alan Shatter do? 

File Photo The fallout of the interim report of the Fennelly Commission. The Fennelly Commission has concluded that the visit by former secretary general of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell to the home of former garda commissioner Martin Callinan w

He’s no longer at cabinet but he remains one of the most fascinating figures in Leinster House. The Fine Gael TD will likely address the fallout from Fennelly, but he has so far refused to say whether he has confidence in Enda Kenny.

Will he back the Taoiseach or go mysteriously missing during the vote? Shatter also has a tricky selection convention coming up on 2 October which will no doubt feature in his thoughts.

4. The Budget

The government’s last chance to sweeten the voters ahead the general election. October 13 will see the usual fanfare that we’ve become accustomed to on Budget day as Ministers Noonan and Howlin deliver their final financial measures of the current Dáil.

14/10/2014 Budget Day 2015 Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

We’re expecting tax reductions and the restoration of some of the nastier cuts of the last few years. The opposition will cry foul and accuse the coalition of trying to buy the electorate off. But that’s politics.

The pre-budget submissions of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin will also provide signifiant guidance on what sort of economic measures will be in their election manifestos. On the government side, the Budget is effectively Fine Gael and Labour’s manifesto.

5. Mary Lou v Joan Burton Round 5,654

The Sinn Féin deputy leader has made a habit of clashing with the Tánaiste at Leaders’ Questions every Thursday and that’s sure to continue in the new term. There’s no love lost between these two. They frequently snipe at each other over issues like water charges and social welfare cuts.

There’s a fair amount of shade thrown too. Expect more of this:

Source: Video TheJournal.ie/YouTube

6. The government getting beaten in the Seanad again and again 

The McNulty debacle ensured the coalition is now in the minority in the upper house. That’s already led to a number of embarrassing defeats where the opposition has won votes forcing ministers to come into the house to explain various matters related to their portfolio.

With the architects of such defeats, like Fianna Fáil’s Darragh O’Brien and Thomas Byrne, aiming for election to the Dáil expect them to get up to more mischief in the new term in a bid to drum up publicity.

download

The main impact of this will be a lot of rows, a lot of shouting and a lot of ministers forced to account for themselves before our esteemed senators.

7. The Dáil autumn/winter collection

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and his colourful Sesame Street t-shirts and hemp suits are no longer with us having fled to Europe last year.

But don’t worry, we still have Mick Wallace for entertainment:

download Source: Oireachtas TV

While Joe Higgins, embarking on his last political term ahead of his retirement at the next election, will surely grace us with one of his casual jackets:

download (1) Source: Oireachtas TV

First published 21 September; reposted 22 September

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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