Sunday 30 April 2017

'Brexit Minister' Kenny 'dodging' Dáil questions

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been accused of dodging Dáil questions on Britain's departure from the EU despite anointing himself as the 'Minister for Brexit'.

The Taoiseach's office is "regularly refusing" to answer "simple" Brexit queries and tries to deflect them to other departments, according to Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin.

"The Dáil is simply not being properly briefed by the Taoiseach," Mr Howlin told the Irish Independent.

Twice a week TDs have the opportunity to table Dáil questions to the Taoiseach for oral reply but they are vetted by officials in advance.

Among the rejected queries cited by Mr Howlin was one asking about the discussion by EU leaders on the European Fund for Strategic Investment and Ireland's bid to become the new base for the European Banking Authority (EBA) and European Medicines Board (EMB).

Another sought clarification on territorial ownership in Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough with the advent of a hard border.

Read more: Ireland would be 'ideal' choice for European Banking Authority, says Kenny

The Labour Party has supported the decision by Mr Kenny to take the leading role in Ireland's Brexit team "on the basis that responsibility for the biggest issue facing our nation is genuinely held by An Taoiseach".

However, Mr Howlin added: "The Taoiseach has said he is the Minister responsible for Brexit.

Disallowed

"But he has been refusing to take Dáil questions on the many issues that are developing across Government that require a central response."

The Labour leader said that large parts or entire questions are being disallowed or redirected.

"I know this is an issue that has been affecting all TDs who question him, and there is no appeal mechanism when questions are ruled out or transferred," he said.

The former minister said question on the European Fund for Strategic Investment should be a priority "considering the turmoil a 'hard Brexit' will cause in Ireland".

A spokesman for Mr Kenny rejected the charge, noting that the Taoiseach "loves talking" about issues such as investment.

The spokesman said Dáil questions were ruled out of order by "officialdom" and not Mr Kenny.

On the specific questions cited by Mr Howlin, the spokesman noted that the Taoiseach had "made no secret" of the Government's goal to attract the EBA and EMB to Ireland.

He said talk about a hard border was "speculation" and not something the Government intended to see happen, thereby making the query about Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough invalid.

He said that some questions were redirected because while the Taoiseach would be the "top person" on Brexit, he had "repeatedly said the response has to be cross departmental".

Irish Independent

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