Getting to heart of issues is still a big ask
TDs can submit parliamentary questions to ministers to hold the Government to account and to get information for their constituents, writes Fiach Kelly. There is no limit on the amount of questions that may be asked by individual deputies, and they can be asked on national or local issues.
Once submitted, the questions are first vetted by Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett to see if they are admissible, ie, if the question is addressed to a certain minister, it must fall under the policy area of that minister.
For example, questions about septic tanks or the household charge must be addressed to Environment Minister Phil Hogan and not Education Minister Ruairi Quinn. The questions are sent out to offices dealing with them in government departments or bodies like the HSE, and are then farmed down the line to officials who deal with the areas queried by TDs.
A response must be issued within three Dail sitting days, although the replies often just buy time until proper information can be provided.
Bernard Durkan's questions -- like all TDs -- range from local to national issues. Local questions often enquire about welfare payments or medical cards for individual constituents.
In cases like these, the identity of the person at the centre of the question is protected.
For example, on December 15 Mr Durkan asked Social Protection Minister Joan Burton "the reason rent support has not been paid in the case of a person (name identified) in Co Kildare; if she will further investigate the reason for the continued delay in the issue of payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter".
On more national issues, on September 16 last he asked Mr Quinn about bullying in schools.
He asked "the extent to which incidents of the various forms of school bullying that have been identified in each of the past five years to date whether through the use of modern technology or other methods; the degree to which structures are in place at local or national level with a view to ensuring early identification of the problem and positive intervention to deal with the issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter".