Sunday 26 March 2017

Dail sitting days rise to 100 as TDs debate bank crisis

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

TDs spent 100 days in the Dail chamber last year for the first time in more than a decade.

The upsurge in activity was mainly due to the marathon sittings to set up the National Asset Management Agency to deal with the banks' toxic loans.

The 100 days of Dail sittings was up on 96 in 2008 and just 76 in 2007, when there was a lengthy lay-off for the general election campaign.

Back in 1999, the figure was just 88 days.

There was also an increase in the number of sitting days last year in the Seanad, which is facing calls for its abolition from Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny.

It was in session for 99 days last year compared to 93 the previous year. It had sat for just 64 days in 2007.

Fianna Fail Wexford TD Sean Connick described it as the busiest period in the Dail since he was elected two-and-a-half years ago. He said it was "proper order" that the number of sitting days had increased in response to the economic crisis.

"But it felt like we sat more. Certainly, there were a lot of late nights and the Dail sitting time was often extended to 10.30pm or midnight," he said.

TDs and senators spent 2,346 hours in parliamentary debates and committee meetings in the first 11 months of last year, which was up from 2,214 hours in the same period in 2008.

The holding of an emergency Budget last April as well as the traditional December Budget also led to increased activity in both Houses.

There were also the local and European elections in June, as well as the second Lisbon Treaty referendum in October.

There was also an upsurge in the number of bills passed by the Dail and Seanad in the first 11 months of last year, with 127 bills going through both Houses, compared to 90 in the same period in 2008.

And the number of parliamentary questions submitted by TDs on issues of concern rose from 43,861 in the first 11 months of 2008 to 53,644 in the same period in 2009.

Last year, TDs took a six-week Christmas break amid furious opposition protest about the dearth of legislation. But this year, they return on January 19, instead of January 30.

Holidays

Mr Connick said that he and other TDs had still been working in their own areas over the Christmas period -- with calls coming in on Christmas Eve from concerned constituents.

"The annoyance is that there's a presumption that when you're on holidays from the Dail, you're actually on holidays. I'll be in work tomorrow morning and I already have meetings scheduled," he said.

The Dail and Seanad cost €137m to run last year, with 60pc of this figure spent on pay and pensions for politicians and staff. However, the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission has reduced its budget by €33m for the next three years.

Irish Independent

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