Thursday 19 October 2017

FG rebels try to force their way onto committees

Denis Naughton who was removed from the Health Committee after losing the party whip
Denis Naughton who was removed from the Health Committee after losing the party whip

Fiach Kelly, Political Correspondent

THE Fine Gael rebels are following up their successful efforts to get more speaking time in the Dail by trying to force their way onto Oireachtas committees.

Fine Gael and Labour TDs who lost the party whip on abortion and other issues have been kicked off Dail committees, such as Denis Naughten being removed from the Health Committee.

But Lucinda Creighton, Mr Naughten and other members of the ‘Reform Alliance’ group tabled a motion this morning asking that the rules be changed to allow them back on committees.

Political parties and the Technical Group can nominate committee members, but the rebels are effectively in limbo because they are Independents who cannot join the Technical Group.

Anyone elected under a party banner at a general election cannot join the Technical Group for the lifetime of that Dail.

The Reform Alliance motion is looking to change Dail standing orders, and this has to be accepted the by the Government – but this is unlikely to happen.

Ms Creighton is looking to be appointed to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Mr Naughten to the Agriculture, Food and Marine Committee, Peter Mathews to the Finance Committee, Terence Flanagan to the Environment Committee and Billy Timmins to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade.

It comes after Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett changed other Dail rules to give the Fine Gael and Labour rebels more speaking time.

In what is being seen as a snub to the Government, Mr Barrett has agreed to give the TDs speaking slots in the Dail.

The changes are understood to be most the Ceann Comhairle can do on his own, and come after the Coalition ignored requests from Fine Gael and Labour TDs for greater speaking rights.

The Reform Alliance group of tweeted that they welcomed the changes “allowing all non-aligned TDs to avail of speaking rights in debates”.

A Government source said: “This is the most he (Mr Barrett) can do, he would see this as win”.

An email to TDs from an Oireachtas official last night read: I am instructed by the Ceann Comhairle to inform you that...on government business, some speaking slots for 'others' will be incorporated in the rotation of Dail speakers, after the initial spokespersons round.

“These ‘others' slots are intended for use by members who do not have access to the speakers lists prepared by the parties or the Technical Group.”

Mr Barrett’s move comes weeks after a furious row erupted between him, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin over how fill a vacancy left by the retirement of the chief civil servant in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

However, the rebels will not be given speaking time during Leader's Questions to Mr Kenny or Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.

Mr Timmins and former Labour health minister Roisin Shortall say they will now look for the right to table private members motions in the Dail.

Irish Independent

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